The Sharks are facing elimination in Game 6 of the Western Conference final on Tuesday night, and are doing so without the help of Erik Karlsson, Tomas Hertl and captain Joe Pavelski.
All three of those San Jose stars are missing the game due to injury, but the latter two were injured as the result of what could generously be called borderline hits suffered in Game 5.
Both players were removed from Game 5 after taking hits to the head from Blues forward Ivan Barbashev and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, respectively. However, the NHL Department of Player Safety deemed neither hit deserving of supplemental discipline.
NBC Sports California analyst Curtis Brown took issue with the hits in the aftermath of Game 5, and directed his ire at the Department of Player Safety ahead of Game 6 for what he deemed to be a failure to protect the players.
"I don't think the league is doing what they said they were going to do," Brown said on Sharks Playoff Live, "which is create a standard that hits to the head are going to be controlled by them via suspensions."
"It's like they're closed for business," he continued. "The Department of Player Safety is gone for the summer."
Look, it's hard to argue with Brown. Karlsson was given a two-game suspension during the regular season for a hit that looked eerily similar to Barbashev's, and Joe Thornton was suspended for Game 4 of the first round for a hit to the head that looked pretty darn similar to the one Blues forward Sammy Blais laid on Sharks defenseman Justin Braun in Game 3. Blais, like Barbashev and Pietrangelo, didn't receive any supplemental discipline.
The Sharks are facing elimination Tuesday night, and don't have the benefit of having three of their best players with them. That's unfortunate in itself, but the fact that the NHL Department of Safety continues to be wildly inconsistent in the enforcement of what they self-proclaimed as their No. 1 priority makes it that much worse.