The Capitals’ disagreement with Nicklas Backstrom’s suspension was just another example of “gamesmanship” during the playoffs, according to Gary Bettman.
“That doesn’t mean anything. They didn’t like it,” the NHL commissioner said Friday during an Associated Press Sports Editors meeting. “The fact is, it was a cross-check to the face. It deserved a game.”
Washington took exception when Backstrom, its top center, was handed down a one-game ban for his cross check on the Bruins’ Rich Peverley in Game 3. “We disagree with the NHL’s decision to suspend Nicklas Backstrom,” the Capitals said in a statement released by the front office. “This has been a competitive and physical series, and we do not understand why a suspension was imposed in this case while other incidents in this series have not been reviewed.”
Players also complained that there’s too much ambiguity when it comes to what constitutes an illegal play. “It’s tough to know what is a suspension and what is not a suspension, but I think [vice president of player safety Brendan Shanahan is] kind of under the gun, too, with fan pressure and all that stuff,” Capitals winger Jason Chimera said. “You suspend one thing, you’ve got to suspend another thing too, so it’s tough. We don’t want to crush people near the face right now, but it’s tough to know what’s right and what isn’t.”
Bettman, though, said he has confidence in Shanahan and agrees with all nine suspensions through the first eight days of the playoffs.
“I have confidence in the people that are doing it, even though they’re under intense scrutiny and criticism from both sides,” Bettman said. “For everybody who says it’s too much, there are people who say it’s too little. For everybody who doesn’t like a particular judgment, they say they’re being inconsistent.”