By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Last week, Bruins forward David Backes delivered a late hit up high to an unsuspecting opponent. The NHL punished him for it — severely.
But Backes served his three-game suspension and returned to the ice on Tuesday night. He was back out there on Thursday night for his second game back from suspension, but he didn’t last long.
With just over two minutes left in the first period, Backes delivered a check to Vincent Trocheck in the neutral zone. Trocheck’s Florida teammate Mike Matheson took exception to the hit and immediately fought Backes, who obliged his opponent despite the hit not appearing to be out of bounds in any way. Backes was then hit with something worse than a right hook from Matheson, as the on-ice officials gave Backes a match penalty for the hit on Trocheck.
It does appear that Backes ended up making contact with Trocheck’s head, but as Jack Edwards pointed out immediately on the game broadcast, such contact didn’t result in any penalty when Patric Hornqvist hit Charlie McAvoy a few weeks ago. But such is life in today’s NHL, a league that struggles to ever establish any level of consistency. It’s not a league that Backes is particularly enjoying.
“I won’t bother to guess,” Backes said when asked about what the NHL department of player safety might think of the hit. “It’s the kind of hit that I’ve been doing for years. So if this is kind of the new NHL, the new standard, then I hope I can have my league back.”
Backes admitted that he may need to make some adjustments to his own game, but he did stress the importance of physicality in the sport of hockey.
“I’ll tell you, if I try to get in a toe drag competition with guys like Trocheck, I’m going to lose,” Backes said. “So I think the physical part of the game still needs to be there. I don’t know.”
Backes said he wasn’t sure what message, if any, might come from the NHL’s department of player safety. But he did seem to offer up his personal defense when speaking to the media.
“He kind of just turns right into me. I feel like my shoulder’s down. I hit him right through the shoulder, and he’s much smaller than I am,” Backes said. “But I think probably the good thing is he finishes the game, he’s back out there next shift and not injured on the play. But I guess they saw enough to give me a match penalty for it.”
Backes, 33, is in his 12th NHL season, and second with Boston. He never faced NHL discipline for any hit prior to last week’s hit against Detroit’s Frans Nielsen.
NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty, who always has the quick info on whether a player will face a disciplinary hearing for supplemental discipline, reported that Backes is “unlikely” to receive any further discipline for the hit on Trocheck. But having his night ended after just 5:10 time on ice, in a game where his team was shut out 3-0 in Florida, was punishment enough for Backes to speak out against some of the more questionable calls in the NHL.