10:23 p.m. was not a good time for the Washington Capitals on Monday. That’s when the clock hit zero, putting the Caps down 2-1 in their best of seven quarterfinal matchup with the Bruins. But it was also what happened after the whistle that could haunt the team’s postseason chances.
As the final seconds ticked off and the Caps dropped the game 4-3, Boston’s Rich Peverley and Alex Ovechkin got into a scuffle. Coming to the aid of his buddy, Nicklas Backstrom delivered a cross-check up high on the Bruins forward. That’s when the inconsistent officiating of this series — and these playoffs as a whole — once again reared its head. For his infraction — the third called against him in the game — Backstrom was assessed a match penalty.
The video is after the jump.
“I think it’s normal that there’s some intensity and the rivalry is getting better and bigger as we move forward here,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said in his post-game press conference. “You understand that those kind of things are going to happen. The only thing that’s a little disappointing for me is the fact that this is the third time in three games that our player has been cross-checked in the face. We saw the one on [David] Krejci in Game 1 and Ovechkin on [Dennis] Seidenberg in Game 2, and now Backstrom. You hope that those things don’t get out of hand and again, I’m going to say the same thing I said last time, somebody else has to deal with that and not us and as a coach I want to continue to get my team ready for the next game.”
So what does this all mean? Let’s take a look at NHL Rule 21.1:
A match penalty shall be imposed on any player who deliberately attempts to injure or who deliberately injures an opponent in any manner. … In addition to the match penalty, the player shall be automatically suspended from further competition until the Commissioner has ruled on the issue.
Yep, after Shea Weber’s attempted murder of Henrik Zetterberg last week that earned him a mere (for a guy that earns $7.5 million) $2,500 fine, it’s the 24-year-old soft-spoken Swede that could be sitting up in the press box Thursday. And how about what Tim Thomas pulled on Saturday, committing two acts that according to the rulebook should have earned him match (!) penalties.
I think Backstrom’s play was dangerous, no doubt. But was it a deliberate attempt to injure Peverley? I don’t think so. Backstrom is not that kind of player and this was a heat of the moment situation. And that’s what Caps coach Dale Hunter hopes the league will conclude.
“I think the league will review it and rescind it,” he said. “If you see it, it’s not that bad.”
Take heart, Caps fans, it’s all up to Gary Bettman now.