DETROIT — Will the Detroit Red Wings’ Justin Abdelkader be suspended or not? Only Brendan Shanahan knows for sure.
If it were up to the Anaheim Ducks, Abdelkader is as good as gone; however, if it were up to the Red Wings, Abdelkader shouldn’t have even received a penalty for his hit to the shoulder/head area of Anaheim’s Toni Lydman on Saturday.
“To me it was a hard check,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I want our guys to be physical. Abby is a physical guy for us.
“Their team is being physical, too. That’s playoff hockey — you’re taking runs at each other. No one at any time has any intent on hurting anybody else.”
Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau was a little more reserved than Babcock when discussing the hit on Lydman. Boudreau told the assembled media that his defenseman had “a good headache” … that Lydman “didn’t feel like celebrating right now” … that “the league has done a pretty good job on these things.”
Then, with saddest puppy dog eyes he could conjure, Boudreau said: ”We’re hoping he’s not out too long I mean. I’m not a doctor, so I don’t know how long he’s going to be out.
“I’d love to see him out on the ice tomorrow, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
Are you listening, Mr. Shanahan?
So depending on which side of the fence you fall on, you either believe it was a clean, but jarring hit that is the essence of the game. Or you believe it was premeditated, dirty blow to the head — and don’t forget to light a candle for Lydman at church on Sunday.
Looking at the play countless times, I believe it was a charging penalty. I also believe that it should have been a two-minute penalty. A five-minute major and a game ejection seemed to be an overreaction by the officials.
But what I saw and what Shanahan sees might be completely different.
If you know anything about Shanahan, it’s all about Brendan, and he’s set a precedent that any blow remotely close to a player’s head warrants a suspension.
That means that Abdelkader is likely exiled for at least a game, maybe two, which will affect the Wings’ depth and size in an enormous way.
What appeared to be a winnable series now seems to be extremely daunting if Shanahan sentences Abdelkader to a timeout.
The NHL is at a crossroads. One road touts the game as fast and physical, where you had better keep your head up. The other road is paved with a zero-tolerance policy for headshots.
Unfortunately, without Abdelkader, the road the Wings are about to embark on is likely the exit ramp from the playoffs.