The Chicago Blackhawks Western Conference first-round series with the St. Louis Blues was altered drastically late in the contest, when Brent Seabrook plowed into Blues captain David Backes. With the 'Hawks now down 2-0 in the series, there is a lot to sort out in the aftermath of one of the most talked-about hits in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Let's begin with Seabrook. There is little point in slapping a label on what he did. If you want to have a debate about intent to target the head, you're free to do that in the comments section. At the end of all the discussion is that what we saw was an illegal hit. I'm not here to tell you that it was or wasn't a dirty one.
I have little doubt that Seabrook was focused on delivering a jolting check to the shoulder or chest of Backes. He should have been worried about playing defense, and that is where the play becomes a real head-scatcher.
Chicago was killing a penalty late in the third period. Duncan Keith was already engaging Backes in the corner. What Seabrook should have been doing was preventing Backes from delivering a pass. Instead, he chose to go for the big hit and probably cost the 'Hawks Game 2.
The Blues suckered Chicago into looking to deliver a hit for the sake of hitting. Seabrook stopped playing his game and handed St. Louis a prime opportunity to tie the contest, which they did.
The Blackhawks gamely killed 46 seconds of a five-on-three and nearly four minutes of Seabrook's charging penalty before the Blues, after pulling goalie Ryan Miller, tied the contest at 19:53 of the third period. Seabrook, who was handed a game misconduct as well for his transgression, left Chicago short on the back end in overtime, where the Blues eventually completed their second comeback in as many games.
Expect the 'Hawks to have to battle the Blues in Chicago without one of their key players. The hit is likely to affect both teams, however.
It isn't far-fetched to believe that Backes suffered a concussion with his head bouncing off Seabrook's shoulder and then the glass. The Blues could be facing playing without their captain for the rest of the series.
As for Seabrook, first-time offender be damned, he is likely to receive further discipline from the league. CSN-Chicago's Tracey Myers tweeted that Seabrook is facing a hearing Sunday from the NHL Division of Player's Safety.
We should find out if Seabrook is to be suspended sometime Sunday. Chicago could be missing Seabrook for the next two games or more. If that's the case, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is going to have to shuffle his lineup.
Quenneville would need to assign a new partner for Keith. That could be Michal Rozsival, who was Keith's partner at even strength following Seabrook' departure, or Niklas Hjalmarsson. I would rather see Hjalmarsson stay with Johnny Oduya as not to completely reshuffle Chicago's defensive deck.
Sheldon Brookbank slides to the bottom pairing with Nick Leddy. At that point there is little depth if another 'Hawks defender goes down.
David Runblad is not a player Quenneville trusted defensively down the stretch in the regular season, let alone the playoffs. Rockford's season came to an end Saturday night, so a number of IceHogs will likely be called up as Black Aces.
Blueliners Klaus Dahlbeck and Adam Clendening were likely going to be called up to practice with the Blackhawks for the remainder of the playoffs. If circumstances required, Dahlbeck would be my pick for emergency service. He's a stay-at-home defender with sound positioning instincts who could pair with Leddy in a pinch.
Chicago finds itself in a hole, though the old saying holds true that it isn't a series until someone loses at home. The Blackhawks have a chance to parlay Games 3 and 4 at the United Center into evening the series. They may have to make that happen without the services of Brent Seabrook.
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