Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith doesn't deserve to be suspended for his stick to the face of Los Angeles Kings forward Jeff Carter although he will have a phone hearing with the league on Wednesday, according to multiple sources.
Keith will undoubtedly claim he meant to hit Carter in the shoulder rather than the face in the second period of the Hawks' 3-1 loss to the Kings on Tuesday. He apologized at the time and probably will again during the hearing, but his apology should have nothing to do with possible further discipline. No one knew his true intent or even his sincerity after the fact.
The decision should simply come down to whether he deserves to be punished further for the act. And he doesn't.
Keith and Carter started up with each near the Hawks goal with referee Eric Furlatt watching on. The first and second shots taken in the altercation were by Carter. He whacked Keith in the back with his stick and as they engaged, Keith lost his own stick and then glove. Carter then set his stick down near -- or on -- Keith's hand as he tried to pick up his glove. That's when Keith whacked him back, possibly aiming for Carter's right shoulder but getting him in the face.
In whole, it's your classic back and forth that happens between players, but Keith getting his stick up high was certainly cause for penalty. And in truth so were Carter's whacks if they wanted to call a tight game.
The referees saw the infraction and called it. Blood being drawn got Keith an additional two minutes. This was something that happened behind the play with Furlatt seeing it from start to finish. There was nothing ambiguous about it. We all saw it. If the referees wanted to give Keith a five-minute major, they could have. If they wanted to give him a game misconduct, they could have. They didn't. Why must a call on the ice, easily seen by the referees, be further examined if they didn't deem it worthy of the severest of on-ice punishments?
If it was so bad, why wasn't he kicked out at the time? Furlatt knew exactly what went down. The game is fast and sometimes referees miss the severity or entirety of an infraction. That didn't happen in this case.
This is the playoffs; suspending a player for a game after Keith and Carter's back and forth seems harsh. Keith didn't skate 170 feet and raise his stick behind his back and go to town on Carter. There were whacks back and forth and his last one was too high. To the penalty box he went.
That should be the end of the story -- and punishment.