Washington Capitals defenceman Matt Niskanen has officially become Enemy No. 1 in Pittsburgh in the days since he cross-checked Penguins captain Sidney Crosby in the head in Game 3 of what has been a heated second-round series.
Fans are calling for revenge, players have spoken out, and boos rain down on him at PPG Paints Arena each time he touches the puck.
But perhaps the most telling indication of Niskanen’s status right now can be found on the back of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury’s helmet, under a piece of masking tape.
Fleury’s mask, which which was designed ahead of Pittsburgh’s Stadium Series game against the Philadelphia Flyers this past February, features a pretty impressive lineup of Fleury’s favourite teammates from seasons past and present.
One of those teammates was Niskanen, who played in Pittsburgh for almost four seasons from 2011 to 2014 before signing with Washington.
In addition to his clutch play this post-season, the netminder they call “The Flower” is known for his generally cheerful disposition and the permanent smile on his face. Just don’t cross him.
Niskanen received a five-minute major and a game misconduct for the cross-check, which has been the topic of countless debates surrounding intention and possible retaliation.
Crosby has been diagnosed with a concussion, and has missed one game so far.