Boden: Inconsistency plagues NHLs Dept. of Player Safety

Boden: Inconsistency plagues NHLs Dept. of Player Safety
April 17, 2012, 8:33 pm
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A bad call. And its a bad call because of the inconsistencies that have suddenly plagued the NHLs Department of Player Safety.

Blackhawks fans (and Im guessing the Blackhawks themselves) could live with this three-game suspension to Andrew Shaw if Shea Weber had gotten, say, five or more for grabbing Henrik Zetterbergs head and smashing it into the glass.

They couldve lived with it if Ottawas Matt Carkner had gotten more than three for racing across the ice to repeatedly pummel the Rangers Brian Boyle in the head while Boyle covered up and took it like a turtle disappearing into its shell.

They probably couldve lived with it a little better if Daniel Sedin had gotten something -- at least a fine -- for the elbow that forced Duncan Keiths head into the glass before Keith got his five games. All of us would understand this a little more.

I wont even start to get into the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia mess the department has on its hands. And theres much more beyond these instances in this first week of the post-season thats been full of Shanahan-igans. But part of the reason he has this mess is he took his foot off the brake he was applying to trying to remove or limit head shots from the NHL.

I loved what Brendan Shanahan was doing with the first five months of the season in order to crack down on dangerous hits. Concussions were starting to make more news than the great game he played and all of us enjoy, and that wasnt a good thing. So he was taking such positive, no-nonsense steps in doing his best job to eliminate that. Steve Konroyd and I praised him often during our coverage. This opinion now isnt simply because its suddenly hitting home. Hawks fans can deal with that. Its the perception hes ignoring or minimizing certain things that seem so obvious (Weber), and then continuing to put the hammer down on other hits. Its like a traffic cop suddenly writing tickets for going five miles an hour over the speed limit, and letting someone going fifty over the limit drive away with a warning.

On top of that, he put an unnecessary extra day into the process. Were only left to assume that was to make sure Mike Smith was OK. If hes concussed, symptoms dont always show up right away. Smith said he was 100 percent after the game. The team didnt practice Sunday. He was held out yesterday but head coach Dave Tippett indicated he was fine. Smith went through his normal morning skate routine this morning, but was made unavailable to reporters with the leagues blessing, while Tippett later suddenly called him a game-time decision as the Blackhawks continued to wait to hear about Shaws availability.

Make no mistake, Smith will be in the net tonight after winning Best Actor in a Drama. But playing that card (and maybe the Hawks wouldve done the same if the tables were turned), leaves many wondering how much Shanahan got played by the uncertain Smith status the Coyotes sold Shanahan -- apparently to the hilt. Successfully.

Shaw deserved a penalty because goalies are protected that way by the rulebook. The game misconduct he got was a tough break. Jonathan Toews said yesterday that should be it -- the Hawks lost him for half the game while Smith stayed in. But Shanahan thought what Shaw did was worse than an additional fine. Was worse than one additional game. Or two games. So Toews must now make sure his team doesnt get knocked off the tracks by all this, and do the things it needs to do to win, despite the anger and frustration they probably feel right now. Just execute, and play the best possible way they know to beat the Coyotes, without a guy whos made huge contributions for them in getting to this point. Or tell Corey Crawford to play a puck behind the net and hope a Coyotes player bumps into him.

Phoenix won this one. But the series is still tied, and needs to be won now that this over-dramatization by one team, and the league office, is over.