In the aftermath of Duncan Keith and Daniel Sedin’s dueling elbows, Sedin is flying back to Vancouver for further evaluation (it’s suspected that he’s concussed) while Duncan Keith is readying his preposterous "I didn’t even feel the first headshot" defense for his phone hearing with Shanahan.
After Keith’s hit the game devolved into an ugly one, as the Canucks gooned it up and targetted Keith (as well as netminder Corey Crawford) with a series of retributive plays. The official, Dan O’Halloran, blew the call on Sedin’s headshot of Duncan Keith, and then blew the call on Keith’s hit on Daniel (how that wasn’t a major penalty, I’ll never understand). The result was that he completely lost control of the game for about thirty minutes of game-time, and it wasn’t until the pace of the game normalized during a high-flying third period that one remembered how entertaining games between the Blackhawks and Canucks can be, when they’re not marred by petty thuggery on both sides.
Read past the jump for more on the aftermath of the two hits.
I’ve watched Duncan Keith play fifty-plus games in his NHL career, and while I’ve seen him run around on occasion, I would never have put him in the "dirty player" category. I still probably wouldn’t, even though you’ll be hard-pressed to dirtier play this season than his blatant elbow to Daniel’s cranium.
The context of Daniel’s previous hit on Keith is important, so let’s review the video (even though I’m sure you’ve all seen it several times):
I hate that hit. Daniel gets his elbow up, Keith’s head is the primary point of contact (Daniel’s shoulder is what makes contact, however, not his elbow) and it comes from the blindside. It’s a textbook violation of rule 48, and the referees blew this one in a big way when they let it go uncalled.
From my perspective, the context of Daniel’s previous dirty hit makes Keith’s retaliatory hit (seriously, if you buy that Keith didn’t even notice this hit, you’re a dummy) a bit more understandable on an emotional level. This is a dangerous play by Daniel, it went unnoticed by the officials and Duncan Keith wanted to get his.
Unfortunately, he decided to "get his" in an altogether over the top fashion, with one of the dirtiest hits of the season:
It’s just brutal.
There’s two big differences between the two plays, namely that Keith had the puck immediately prior to Daniel’s hit, and that the level of cranial targeting by Keith is of a conspicuously higher magnitude. Not that it matters particularly, both plays were illegal, and both were in my view blatant. I’ve long thought that one of the limits of rule 48 is that it still places the onus on the hitee to protect themselves. I’d like to see the rule altered slightly so that, like with a high-stick, the onus is on the hitter to avoid making primary contact with the head.
That’s not always easy, players sometimes fall right before a player delivers a check for example (similar to what we saw when Foligno wiped out Hodgson in early December) and it seems silly in those instances to punish the hitter for making unintentional contact with the head when that contact was accidental. It is silly, but it’s a worthwhile trade-off in my view – I’ll take several whacky penalties every couple of games in exchange for the NHL adopting a more stringent standard in order to guard against concussions.
Duncan Keith is having a hearing over the phone, so he can be suspended for a maximum of five games. Keith is not a repeat offender, and has a sterling reputation around the league so I’ll expect him to get 2-4 games. It’s a lenient sentence considering how blatant and injurious his head-shot was, but it’s understandable. Of course, I couldn’t care less, I just hope Daniel is okay.
When Shanahan’s suspension explanation video hits the web, what I’m going to be curious to see is how he interprets the "context" from Daniel’s previous hit on Keith earlier in the contest. Greg Wyshynski alluded to this earlier today over at Puck Daddy:
Again, the initial hit doesn’t exonerate Keith, but it’s also going to be part of the context for a suspension. The Department of Player Safety can still be a very old school place; and would it surprise you at all if they viewed a retaliatory elbow differently than a non-instigated one? Because while Sedin’s hit wasn’t suspendable, it damn sure wasn’t innocent either.
So will Daniel’s previous hit result in a lessened punishment for Keith, or will it be interpreted as suggestive proof of intent, and result in a stiffer sentence? In my view, it should be the latter – especially if we believe Henrik Sedin about how Keith threatened Daniel prior to his blatant elbow. If you think that Duncan Keith intentionally targeted Daniel’s hit in retribution for an earlier hit and as a result concussed last season’s Art Ross winner – you have to throw the book at him, right? If Shanahan, however, decides that Keith was justified in unilaterally doling out retribution for a bad hit, that’s a whole other can of worms, and a slippery slope I’d hate to see the NHL’s office of player safety go down.
After all, I’m a Canucks fan. I’ve seen what can happen when players take it upon themselves to settle the score for a borderline hit, and it’s not just unsightly, it’s dangerous.