Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom has been suspended one game by the NHL and will miss game four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals for a match penalty called at the end of the Capitals 4-3 loss to the Boston Bruins last night. A match penalty carries with it an automatic one game suspension and the league chose not to rescind it.
Backstrom, who has one goal and one assist in the series, cross-checked Rich Peverley high and hit Peverley’s shield after the final horn of the game had sounded and was given a match penalty by the officials. Backstrom was retaliating after Peverley had tripped Alex Ovechkin.
Peverley raised his stick “in close proximity to Backstrom’s face”, but the NHL’s Head of Department of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan said that Peverley was in a “defensive stance” and that “Backstrom’s reaction is excessive and reckless” even though Shanahan admits that Backstrom might of felt “threatened”.
Earlier today Capitals Head Coach Dale Hunter weighed in on Backstrom’s match penalty.
“I don’t think he’s going to be suspended. If you slow it down frame by frame, where was [Lucic’s] stick? It was up in his face first. Re-watch it again, where his stick’s up in his face, and Nicky [Backstrom] because of the stick in his face, that the guy put his stick up like that and Nicky reacted to it.”
Hunter was also asked if he thought the Boston Bruins have been targeting Backstrom’s head during the series.
“Oh yeah. He comes out with no helmet, a blocker to the head, and then they jumped on him and twisted his head down. Last night, what did Lucic do him behind the scrum? He grabbed his head. So Nicky’s protecting himself.
“Every scrum Nicky comes out with no helmet on. He get’s blocker to the head by [Tim] Thomas the game before. So he’s protecting his head, he just came off of 40 games. You have to protect your head.”
Backstrom, who missed 40 games earlier this season due to a concussion, has only played in seven games since he’s been back. This is Backstrom’s first career NHL suspension.
This is a big blow for the Capitals as they are down two games to one to the Bruins with game four on Thursday at Verizon Center.
You can see the whole Brendan Shanahan video explaining the Nicklas Backstrom suspension right here.