The Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues are embraced in a first-round matchup that has been played at the level and intensity befit of a Stanley Cup Final. With only two games registered in the history books, the Blues lead the series 2-0, winning both games at home in overtime after identically tying the score at 3, late in the third period of Game 1, and again in Game 2.
However, it is not the Blues’ last second heroics that will dominate the headlines as the series shifts back to the United Center in Chicago. In the third period of Game 2, with the score 3-2 ‘Hawks, Chicago defenceman Brent Seabrook absolutely blasted Blues’ captain David Backes with a head hit against the back-boards in the ‘Hawks zone.
Blues forward Alex Steen immediately dropped his gloves and went after Seabrook in an fit of rage and a massive scuffle ensued, but was contained adequately by the officials. What the officials did not correctly accomplish, was the penalty situation in light of the events.
According to the perpetrator of the hit, the referees had not called a penalty on the play when Seabrook first laid the head-hit on Backes. He told Tracey Myers of CSN-Chicago, “I don’t know what happened. I look around, the refs didn’t have their arm up for a penalty.”
After the fact, the referees did award Seabrook with a five-minute charging major and a game misconduct. Steen was not penalized for attempting retribution on Seabrook. The non-call is significant because the Blues tied the score at 3 apiece at the tail end of the power play earned on Seabrook’s illegal hit. Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford was not shy about telling CSN-Chicago as much: “Their guy comes flying in, throws his gloves off and starts throwing punches. Maybe give him one. But whatever; we didn’t get a call.”
Based on replays of the hit, Backes’s head was contacted by Seabrook’s shoulder and then it smacked viciously into the end-boards. It’s actually incredible that the Blues’ captain didn’t lie on the ice unconscious for a few minutes. Backes got back to this feet within seconds of Seabrook’s ferocious levelling. The Blues’ captain even tried to get involved in the tame brawl that was underway, until his feet began to give way beneath him.
The National Hockey League’s new director of player safety, Stephane Quintal, has an opportunity to make a statement with his decision on the Seabrook hit. This will be Quintal’s first suspension in his new role, inherited this past week when former chief of player safety, Brendan Shanahan, was hired as Toronto Maple Leafs’ president.
Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times confirmed via Twitter that Seabrook’s hearing with the league will be conducted over the phone, meaning the looming suspension to the ‘Hawks blue-liner can be no longer than five games.
Brent Seabrook will have a phone hearing tomorrow. That means any suspension will be five games or less. #Blackhawks
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) April 20, 2014
The Blackhawks will miss Seabrook’s presence on the blue-line, assuming he is suspended. Already in the hole, trailing by two games, the loss of Seabrook for Game 3 in Chicago will be difficult for the Blackhawks to overcome. Conversely, the Blues will miss David Backes, as well. By the looks of the hit and Backes’s inability to stand sturdy immediately afterward, it’s very unlikely number 42 will be playing this coming Monday when the two teams reunite their escalating hatred.