Does David Backes’ pivot make head contact unavoidable? That’s the question the NHL will face when it decides whether or not to suspend Chicago’s Brent Seabrook, for this devastating bodycheck.
If you don’t yet know it by heart, here is the rule that applies:
48.1 Illegal Check to the Head – A hit resulting in contact with an opponent's head where the head is targeted and the principal point of contact is not permitted. However, in determining whether such a hit should have been permitted, the circumstances of the hit, including whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the hit or the head contact on an otherwise legal body check was avoidable, can be considered.
There is little doubt Backes’ head is the principal point of contact, but would it have been had he not pivoted? Did he put himself in a vulnerable position, made worse by the board gap created by his pivot? In considering suspension, by rule, that will give pause for thought.
Either way, Seabrook’s hit is a high one and he travels to make it.
And though Backes eventually got up and wanted to join the scrum that ensued, he was wobbling, obviously out of sorts and did not return to the game. That kind of injury, in today’s NHL, will also factor into a decision.
Seabrook was given a five-minute charging penalty on the play, was ejected from the game, and cost his Hawks a win that would have tied up the series. On the power play that followed, St. Louis' Vladimir Tarasenko continued his strong post-season start by ripping the tying goal with 6.3 seconds left.
And less than six minutes into overtime Barret Jackman scored - the sixth goal by a defenseman in the game - for a 4-3 Blues win and a 2-0 series lead.
It's been a physical series the refs have allowed to flare. Just look at the two slashes Duncan Keith puts on T.J. Oshie right before the Seabrook hit. It would be hard to suspend a guy for what comes down to a borderline case in what's been promoted as a rough affair - especially since a five minute major and an ejection was handed out on the ice.
Suspension for Seabrook, or unfortunately nasty hit? You decide.