As an active member of the NHL competition committee, Bruins forward David Backes has a distinct understanding of the league rules. But sometimes he’s left scratching his head over some of the on-ice calls.
Case in point: Thursday night in Sunrise, Florida, where Backes was ejected for his hit on Panthers forward Vincent Trocheck.
Though Backes landed a hit in the head area, Trocheck, who was reaching for the puck in the neutral zone, left himself in a vulnerable spot for the 12-year veteran to deliver an open ice hit. But that didn’t stop the officials from giving Backes a five-minute major after his ensuing fight with Michael Matheson and a game misconduct for hitting from behind at 17:56 of the opening period.
Clearly, Backes didn’t level Trocheck from behind, but still made contact to the head.
“It’s the kind of hit that I’ve been doing for years,” Backes said following the Bruins’ 3-0 loss. “So if this is the new NHL, the new standard, then I hope I can have my old league back.”
Backes may want old time hockey to return, but the bigger short-term question is whether or not he’ll have another hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety. The former Blues captain returned to the Bruins lineup Tuesday night from a three-game suspension for interfering with Red Wings forward Frans Nielsen during Boston’s 6-5 overtime win over Detroit on March 6.
The three-game ban was Backes’ first suspension in 848 career NHL games.
“My agent did all the numbers and I think I had over 2,400 hits in this league over 12 seasons and never even had a hearing, let alone a fine, let alone a suspension,” Backes said in the aftermath of his first career suspension. “If we’re trying to teach a lesson — or critique — one out of 2,400 hits that I was really trying to really avoid and that’s kind of been acknowledged as well … I don’t know how effective that is. That’s a small little decimal if you do the division. So, that’s where we’re at. It’s the situation we’re in. That’s the world we live in, as the league likes to say a lot. So, that’s the world we live in.”
The Bruins are living in a world full of injuries. Jake DeBrusk, Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, and Charlie McAvoy all missed Thursday’s game, while Torey Krug got banged up for the second game in a row as the Panthers became the second team to blank the Black and Gold in 2017-18.
The last thing the Bruins need is to lose anyone else to injury or suspension. Backes’ hit on Trocheck didn’t look bad at all, but the NHL may rule differently prior to Saturday’s game with the Eastern Conference-leading Tampa Bay Lightning.