In last night’s 5-2 win by the New Jersey Devils over the Boston Bruins, the game-securing goal was a power play empty net goal by Blake Coleman. The power play was a result of David Backes blindsiding Coleman with a check to the head. Backes was given a two minute minor an illegal check to the head. Boston pulled their goalie in the hopes of an improbable comeback and Coleman dashed those hopes with a score. However, the punishment did not end there for Backes. Earlier this evening, it was announced that he has been suspended three games for the hit.
I was a bit surprised that Backes was given a hearing for such a hit. Sometimes, when a penalty is assessed, that is usually the end of it. And Coleman was fine enough to get another shift (and scored that ENG) and he is fine now. The National Hockey League Department of Player Safety still felt this needed a closer look. I am pleased that they have done so. It was a nasty headshot by Backes. The sort that the NHL - and hockey in general - really needs to minimize in the game. Even the still image of the video put out by the league to explain the decision makes it clear that this was a nasty headshot by Backes. The video leaves little doubt that this deserved additional punishment.
Backes did not need to go for a check, much less attack the head with his shoulder. I also did not know that Backes has been before the department before, which was also considered. The hit itself was also similar to the headshot Erik Karlsson threw on Austin Wagner. Karlsson received a two game suspension for that hit. I bring that up because it is a mark of consistency. For the NHL DoPS to rid of its “Wheel of Discipline” reputation, they need to review plays and give out punishments based on the act and not what happened in the game for it. Similarly, good calls need to be recognized as such regardless of who it is for or against.
The Devils will not play Boston until March 2, 2019 so the suspension will not really impact the next few games for them. If you want to voice your displeasure at Backes at the Rock, then you’ll have to wait until March 21. Boston, on the other hand, has been beset by injuries and so an avoidable three-game suspension for a bad hit thrown near the end of regulation is the last thing they would like. Especially with a meaningful divisional game tomorrow (they’re at Buffalo) and a marquee matchup on national television (at Chicago for the Winter Classic in South Bend, Indiana) in their next two games.
What do you think about the decision by the NHL Department of Player Safety? Were you surprised Backes received further discipline for his headshot on Coleman?