Suspend him or not: Backes crunches Alzner from behind

David Backes has never been suspended in his NHL career, but that may change after the Blues captain hit Washington Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner from behind on Sunday. Alzner was bloodied by the hit but returned to the game, while Backes was given a five-minute major for boarding and booted from the contest.

St. Louis Blues captain David Backes is one of the most physical leaders in the entire NHL, but he has always stayed on the side of laying clean, hard hits.

As such, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Backes, 30, has never been suspended in his nine-year career. That may change after Sunday night, however, as Backes labeled Washington Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner from behind. The hit was enough to earn Backes a five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct.

The hit, which came early in the second period, left Alzner busted open and sidelined him for roughly seven minutes of the frame. Alzner returned to the game with just under eight minutes remaining in the second period, while Backes hit the showers early.

The case against suspending Backes: Backes isn’t a repeat offender, nor has been an offender, period. That’s going to work in the St. Louis center’s favor on this hit, because there are no prior incidents for the league to look back on and decide that Backes simply isn’t learning his lesson. The hit is ugly, but Alzner returned to the game and, as a result of the game misconduct, Backes did spend more than half a game watching from the sidelines.

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The case for suspending Backes: It’s hard to defend the hit that Backes made. Alzner’s back was turned the entire way, Backes followed through when they reached the boards, and Alzner, even though he returned, was bloodied after the contact between he and the Blues captain. Realistically, both Alzner and Backes are lucky that we’re not talking about a more serious injury on the play, and Alzner is lucky he’s not dealing with the ill effects of a concussion.

The Department of Player Safety is undoubtedly going to be looking at this one. While they may not see a suspendable play, Backes should at the very least get a fine for the hit. It was reckless and both players are lucky there wasn’t further injury.

St. Louis went on to win the Sunday contest by a score of 4-3, and will be back in action on Tuesday night. Expect a ruling from the Department of Player Safety by then.