Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville may not agree with the league’s decision, but the two-game suspension handed down on Niklas Hjalmarsson for his hit on Jason Pominville Monday night was probably justified.
A case could be made the punishment was one game too much, but that’s splitting hairs.
The incident -- like most like it -- brought out a range of emotions from fans and experts alike. Both extremes were heard. Some -- like Quenneville -- thought it was hardly a penalty. Others thought up to 10 games would have been appropriate.
This time the league got it right, or at least nearly right.
The bottom line is, Hjalmarsson hit Pominville in the numbers. Specifically, in the number 9 on his 29 jersey. Pominville didn’t make a dramatic turn of his back at the last minute to make it worse and you can’t blame him for the way he fell. The hit was from behind enough to warrant a suspension, considering the way Pominville hit the glass. How a player falls plays a part, whether it’s in the rulebook or not.
If Pominville had fallen into another player or simply hit the boards without his head hitting the glass, who knows what the outcome would have been. But hit a guy from behind, or close to it, and you better expect the worst to occur.
Hjalmarsson is correct in saying that things happen fast, and the fact that he’s never had a problem with this before leads you to believe it was a one-time occurrence. But that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be punished. One game would have been enough, but everyone knows the NHL is cracking down on anything that results in a head injury. That can’t be a bad thing.
With the Blackhawks now down two defensemen -- Hjalmarsson and Brian Campbell -- Nick Boynton, John Scott, Jordan Hendry and Nick Leddy have a big task ahead of them the next two games, not to mention Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.
The irony is Hjalmarsson will return from his suspension just in time to face the Sabres on Saturday at the United Center. Ticket prices just went up.