Michael Bunting Suspended 3 games For Illegal Hit on Erik Cernak

Michael Bunting Celebrates Goal With Teammates
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The NHL Department of Player Safety announced Wednesday evening that Toronto Maple Leafs F Michael Bunting has been suspended 3 games for his hit in the 2nd period on Tampa Bay Lightning D Erik Cernak. The earliest Michael Bunting can return is in Game 5.

On the play, Bunting was assessed a 5 minute match penalty (which is subject to automatic review by the DPoS) for illegal contact to the head and a 10 minute misconduct.

Bunting got three games due to three factors at play: Erik Cernak being ruled out for Game 2 and could be out even longer, how there was avoidable head contact on the play, and interference on the play.

Typically, the NHL Department of Player Safety looks at suspensions in the playoffs as an equivalent of two regular season games. That’s to say, the hit Bunting delivered would be equivalent to six games in the regular season.

There was absolutely no reason for Bunting to do what he did in Game 1. The puck was nowhere near Cernak. It was a dumb play all around. Bunting finished Game 1 with 8:32 TOI, 15 PIMS, and one shot. The line of Bunting-Matthews-Marner was on the ice with three scoring chances for and five scoring chances against. (Stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick)

It appears as though Calle Jarnkrok will take Bunting’s spot on the first line as the Leafs practiced earlier on Wednesday. Throughout the season, Jarnkrok had a lot of success when playing with Matthews and Marner, and the trio found the back of the net for the Maple Leafs third goal of the night in Game 1 to make it 7-3.

Could we have seen Bunting’s last game in a Maple Leafs uniform? The 27-year-old is a pending unrestricted free agent after the season.

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