Nicklas Backstrom, who has had a hand in two of the Washington Capitals’ first five playoff goals, will not be available to try to help his team pull even in its series with the Boston Bruins Thursday night.
Backstrom and the Caps alike deserve the temporary increase in adversity. After taking a penalty in the middle of each regulation period Monday night, the young forward chose an ill-timed and inappropriate means of venting his frustration once Boston finalized its 4-3 Game 3 victory.
Right at the final horn, Backstrom delivered a cross-check to the mug of Bruins forward Rich Peverley, warranting a match penalty and automatic one-game suspension.
Granted, during his first regular season on the job, Shanahan issued multiple head-scratching rulings that did not exactly work in the Bruins’ best interest.
Ottawa’s Kyle Turris left his feet to level Bruins defenseman Joe Corvo during a Feb. 25 match and played on with no interruption.
Shanahan banned the historically reckless Milan Lucic for one game in December after a hit from behind on Philadelphia’s Zac Rinaldo. Yet in March, he did nothing when Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin, who bears a disciplinary record similar to Lucic's, threw an identical hit on Boston blueliner Johnny Boychuk.
But recall that five weeks before the Rinaldo incident, Lucic skated off with no suspension or fine after a borderline collision with Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller. That play inevitably resurfaced in many memory banks in the wake of a comparable incident during Game 2 of the Chicago-Phoenix playoff series.
Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw brooked a three-game ban when he was deemed to have made an insufficient effort to minimize the impact of his collision with Phoenix stopper Mike Smith—this despite the fact that Shaw has an otherwise pristine disciplinary record and that Smith stayed in Saturday’s game and started Game 3 on Monday.
Size that up with the Lucic-Miller aftermath and it’s impossible to claim the Bruins have been strictly slighted by Shanahan since he assumed office. Unlike Smith, Miller was injured on that play and Lucic’s effort to avoid contact was virtually identical to Shaw’s.
Regardless, while Shanahan’s first-year scorecard does list multiple suspensions to a Boston player and multiple non-suspensions to an opponent guilty of afflicting a Bruin, there is also at least one non-suspension for a Bruin and one suspension for a Boston adversary.
Furthermore, Backstrom’s ban is solid evidence against the conspiracy theory of trying to ensure each playoff series reaches its maximum length. With this being the ultimate team sport, the Caps will have to bear the brunt of Backstrom’s irresponsibility and try to bail him out in Game 4 by avoiding a 3-1 hole.
Shea Weber aside, Shanahan is making an indubitably valiant effort to neutralize the anarchy that has marred the first week of the 2012 playoffs. With Backstrom, at least one suspension has been doled out in five of the eight conference quarterfinal series.
And now, as one could have expected with due time, the calls from the league’s top off-ice referee are beginning to even out for the Bruins.