It was a predatory move, reminiscent of vintage Matt Cooke. It was also totally uncharacteristic for Duncan Keith, who is closer to being a Lady Byng player than a Chris Pronger.
Daniel Sedin has a concussion (luckily the first of his career) and is out indefinitely.
Everyone has seen the video of the hit, and I have already covered why this was such a brutal hit.
Today, Brendan Shanahan issued a ruling. In his trademark video series, Shanahan broke down the hit, and threw out the following key points to consider:
Elbowing violation: Can't really argue with this. Despite what some Hawks fans are saying, it is clear as day that Keith threw an elbow with intent to injure.
No Previous Suspension: This worked in Keith's favour. As Shanahan notes, seven years into his career, he has spoken with the NHL disciplinarian twice now. The first time he got a mere fine. If this was someone like Dan Carcillo or Raffi Torres, we'd be seeing a double-digit suspension.
Injury: Daniel Sedin, the Canucks' second-leading scorer and the NHL's defending Art Ross winner, is out with a concussion.
Shanahan also noted that this was in retaliation for an earlier hit that Daniel threw on Keith which wasn't penalized.
In a perfect world where the referees don't miss calls, that hit would have been a minor penalty. However, we have to live in a world where even a two-referee system routinely misses easy calls.
In the end, Vancouver is missing their leading scorer, and they aren't sure when he will be coming back.
And the Blackhawks? Well, Duncan Keith gets a five-game break to rest up prior to the playoffs.
When Shanahan was a Red Wing, Scotty Bowman used to fake injuries for veterans like Igor Larionov to give them time off to recharge before a lengthy playoff run.
Unintentionally, Shanahan has just done the same thing for the Blackhawks.
This isn't really a penalty for the team. They might drop a few points in the standings due to missing Keith, but their Norris-winning, Team Canada, 30 minutes-per-night All-Star defender now will be motivated and well-rested once the puck drops.
Keith even gets to come back and play the last two games of the regular season for the Hawks, just to make sure his timing isn't off after the layoff.
But what else could Shanahan do?
He couldn't defer the suspension until the playoffs—which actually would have penalized Keith and the Blackhawks—because the NHLPA would have immediately challenged such an unprecedented move.
Shanahan could have thrown a massive suspension at Keith to cover the last seven games for the Blackhawks, and then a few more to have him forfeit a few playoff games, too.
However, that would have been a bit much given all the circumstances.
I think seven games—to throw a higher number, but still ultimately not penalizing the Hawks—would have been more suitable.
But five games seems appropriate given the suspensions handed out the last few months.
Personally, I'd like to see double-digit suspensions for hits like this, or a change to actually make suspensions hurt the teams, in an effort to change the culture of the NHL away from predatory hits.
But that seems to be beyond Shanahan's mandate.
What do you think Shanahan should have done?
Given the situation with the end of the season, do you think Keith and the Blackhawks were actually punished?
Or was this an unintentional (unless you are into conspiracies) reward in disguise from the NHL head office?
In any case, look forward to the inevitable fireworks when the Hawks and Canucks meet up in the playoffs for the fourth year in a row.
It would be especially interesting if Keith's suspension was the catalyst for the Hawks to drop to seventh in the standings, setting up a first-round matchup.