Let’s get this out of the way right off the top: Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks shouldn’t be suspended for his high-sticking double minor to the face of Los Angeles Kings’ forward Jeff Carter.
What Keith did in the second period of Tuesday’s Game 3 at the Staples Center was a lot of things – unnecessary, reckless, spur of the moment and undeniably bone-headed – but it doesn’t deserve any further punishment than what he received, a four-minute double minor for high sticking.
Watch: Kings stay perfect on home ice
For those who missed the play, Keith was reaching down to pick up one his gloves with a bare hand when Carter went to slash him. In response, Keith swung his stick high, perhaps trying to clip Carter on the shoulder, only he missed and struck Carter smack in the kisser. Carter went down and then to the dressing room for repairs. Keith went to the penalty box.
Although the Kings didn’t score on the power play, they did find a way to goad Chicago into taking too many penalties and they did score a 3-1 win to pull within a game of the ‘Hawks. Afterwards, the opposing coaches saw the Keith play from opposing angles.
L.A.’s Darryl Sutter was miffed. He didn’t think it was a four-minute infraction. “It was a wrong call,” said Sutter, who dubbed it an act of retaliation, which meant it was deserving of a match penalty. “That’s three head injuries in the playoffs for us,” Sutter added, referring to Jarret Stoll and Mike Richards missing time with concussions.
As for Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, he brushed the incident aside. “Four minutes is high sticking with a cut.” Yes, it is, which is what Keith got. Of course, if it happens again, if he takes another swing at someone’s head, then Keith obviously needs to sit out for a longer than four minutes.
The word late Tuesday night was that the NHL’s department of player safety was looking at the Keith high-sticking. That doesn’t mean a suspension is coming.
Now, back to the game …
The Kings did what they had to do, what they’ve been doing this entire post-season: they found a way to win at home. Their record so far is a splendid 8-0 and they beat Chicago by scoring first and getting some lucky breaks, like defenceman Slava Voynov scoring the winner with a stick that snapped in his hands on a shot that somehow slipped by Chicago goalie Corey Crawford. (L.A.’s Justin Williams rightly described it as “a broken-bat single.”)
The Kings also got some timely saves from Jonathan Quick and were absolutely dominant in terms of puck possession. They must have realized the best way to slow the ‘Hawks offensively was to make them play defence. Proof of that was how unproductive some of Chicago’s top players were, most notably Patrick Kane. He was minus one on the night with just two shots on net.
“We didn’t have the puck much,” said Quenneville. “I think (Kane) is way more dangerous when he has it. You have to find a way to get the puck and a way to want it.’
Clearly, the Kings wanted Game 3 more and deserved the outcome. They could even tie the series with another home-ice decision on Thursday. Eventually, though, they’re going to have to stretch beyond their comfort zone and win a game in Chicago, and soon.
Pittsburgh's playoff plight
Dan Bylsma has decided, only he’s not telling.
The Penguins’ head coach admitted Tuesday he had determined who his starting goaltender would be for Game 3 against the Boston Bruins but wasn’t going to reveal his verdict. Really? It’s not as if he has a wealth of options.
Tomas Vokoun was yanked in Game 2 and Marc-Andre Fleury came in and did little to regain Bylsma’s trust so there’s a strong suspicion Vokoun goes back in the net. Plus, Bylsma spent a good chunk of Tuesday’s media session talking about Vokoun and how Game 2, with its 6-1 flogging, wasn’t all that relevant in the decision-making process.
“We look at his entire body of work, not one instance or one shot last night that would sway what goes into how he performed or how he's going to perform in his next game,” Bylsma explained. “He's certainly won a lot of hockey games, had a lot of success in that net for us, and he didn't have that last night, but that's not going to play into the decision.”
Why coaches hedge on naming their starting goaltender is one of playoff hockey’s true oddities. It’s not as if the Bruins are going to look to the other end of the rink, notice who’s in net for the Penguins then throw down their sticks in despair – “They’re playing Vokoun! We’re done.” And yet the gamesmanship with goalies goes on and on every spring – maybe this guy, could be that guy, no comment.
The reality is, no matter who gets the net start for Pittsburgh, it’s the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, to name only three offenders, who have to play at their level, even score a goal or two, which they haven’t. When that happens, it’s sure to be amazing how much better the Penguins’ No. 1 goaltender will look - whoever that guy is.
Best quote of the Stanley Cup playoffs, revisited, comes from Boston’s rugged forward Shawn Thornton, who was talking about teammate Patrice Bergeron getting socked in a Game 1 fight with Pittsburgh’s Malkin,
“I think for the past six team photos I’ve had a shiner,” said Thornton. “So I told (Bergeron), ‘Welcome to my world.’”