Duncan Keith suspended for Game 4, but precedent suggests he got off lightly

Right in the moneymaker - Harry How

Keith will sit for injuring Jeff Carter with a slash to the head. Was it the right call? Comparing this to Bouchard's two game suspension for a similar play is illuminating.

It's official: Duncan Keith will miss Game 4. The Department of Player Safety handed down a one game suspension for his illegal slash to Jeff Carter's head. Carter got 20-odd stitches and some broken teeth from the play.

Here's the explanation from Shanahan:

Shanahan cites three factors in the suspension: the high stick, the fact that Keith is a repeat offender, and the injury on the play.

"This is more serious than a case of a player simply having to be responsible for his stick. It is not an accidental high stick, nor is it a defensive high stick to an opponent. This is a retaliatory high stick to an opponent that causes an injury."

Does anything excuse what Keith did?

One popular defense of Keith claims that Carter provoked him with a slash to his bare hand instead of swatting the glove away. Not only is there no conclusive video that shows that, Keith never shows any sign of being in pain or reacting to a hit.

Even if contact with Keith's hand could be proven, provocation didn't stop a suspension for an illegal slash to the head in a prior case. Neither did a defense based on accidental contact, or lack of intent. (Keith has loudly proclaimed it was all an accident.)

Shanahan didn't allow those excuses here, nor did he in a similar case. Let's compare this with the ruling on Pierre-Marc Bouchard's slash to Matt Calvert's face in 2011.

Bouchard vs. Keith: Two Games vs. One

Many Blackhawks fans may be upset that this drew any suspension at all, but after comparing this suspension to the one given to Bouchard, they should be thanking their lucky stars.

Bouchard had no history of supplemental discipline in his 9-year career, and also appeared to slash Calvert accidentally after Calvert initiated a scrum. This still earned him a two game suspension in the regular season.

The message there was clear: Intent doesn't matter. You are responsible for your stick and the results.

Here's the key quote:

"Regardless of where the slash was intended, or whether Calvert's lifting of his own stick steered the slash into the face area, Bouchard is responsible for his stick and the end result, which was an injury to the Calvert's mouth and teeth. While it's important to note that Bouchard has never faced supplemental discipline in his nine year career, his reckless swing, regardless of where it was intended, did in fact cause an injury to an opponent."

No grey areas here

We've come to expect that infractions in the playoffs will be dealt with more leniently than those in the regular season. Dave Bolland, for example, didn't even get a phone call after appearing to leave his feet to hit Mike Richards' head in Game 1. Richards has now missed two games. This was given the standard "it was a hockey play" handwave.

The problem Keith ran into is that he left the league with no grey areas to work with. There is no universe where this can be justified as a "hockey play." He deliberately raised his stick in a retaliatory slash. Whether or not he meant to go so high, he caught Carter in the head.

As seen in the Bouchard video, neither provocation nor intent excused a reckless action that caused an injury. The NHL says Keith has to be responsible for his stick.

Add in the fact that Keith is a repeat offender--unlike Bouchard, who was punished even more severely--and it's easy to speculate that if this had occurred in the regular season, Keith's suspension would have been even longer.

The NHL is generally (and maddeningly) reluctant to dish out suspensions in the playoffs unless an injury or a repeat offender is involved. In this case, there was both. What Keith did was colossally reckless and stupid, and it left the NHL in a bind. For that, he has no one to blame for himself.

Do you agree with the suspension? Tell us here.

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