While the St. Louis Blues came away with a thrilling 4-3 overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday, they took a potential big loss when captain David Backes was knocked out of the game after sustaining a crushing body check into the boards by Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook.
Backes, who was already dealing with a foot injury suffered near the end of the regular season, was reported to be in “not great” condition after the game by Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. While injured center Patrik Berglund could be back to replace Backes in the lineup if need be for Game 3, the captain’s loss would be significant either way.
With Seabrook having been ejected from the game for his hit, it is very likely that he will be fined and suspended. The only question, particularly in this crucial playoff series, is how many games he will miss. The Blues have a bit of familiarity with this situation, having seen center Maxim Lapierre get suspended earlier this year for a hit from behind on San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle. While Boyle was knocked unconscious and taken off on a stretcher, it is difficult to argue that Lapierre’s hit was equal to or more severe than Seabrook’s. Boyle was already off balance, and it was more difficult for Lapierre to slow down coming into the check.
Meanwhile, though he didn’t catch as much of Backes’s rear numbers as Lapierre did Boyle’s, Seabrook’s hit looked much more deliberate. He had a clear path into Backes, and he accelerated while squaring up his shoulders to go right into Backes’s upper body. The league could take it easier on him because he didn’t check directly into Backes’s back, but the fact remains that he would have hit him square in the numbers had Backes not adjusted his body to field the pick.
Rumors are flying in that Seabrook’s hearing will be conducted via phone, which means that his suspension would be for less than five games. That is a shame, because it is plain to see that he was more vicious than Lapierre, who required a hearing at the league offices and a five-game suspension. It’s possible that there could be a difference in philosophy now that Brendan Shanahan, who was the Vice President of Player Safety in the league office at the time of Lapierre’s hit, has taken on a new role as the president of the Toronto Maple Leafs and been replaced in the interim by former NHL defenseman Stephane Quintal. With that said, whoever is in charge should recognize Seabrook’s deliberate attempt to take out one of his opponent’s best players and discipline him properly.