Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith had a short night against the Calgary Flames last night. The veteran logged just 37 second of ice time, as he was ejected from the game on just his second shift, less than three minutes into the first period of the game. Keith was guilty of a boarding call on Flames rookie forward Dillon Dube, when he smashed Dube head-first into the end boards (video). Keith was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct, ending his night before it had really begun.
However, The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus hears that no additional discipline is coming for Keith. Seeing as Keith was ejected so early into the game, the misconduct operated more or less like a one-game suspension. Lazerus calls this already a “significant penalty for what was a borderline hit”. Lazerus is not wrong; the hit looks bad, but also isn’t a typical “between the numbers” boarding call. Dube was hit with force, but more from the side and with some sense of where Keith was coming from. A game misconduct is a debatable response to such an incident.
Yet, a couple factors do work against Lazerus’ claims. First, Dube did not return to the game and may have suffered a lasting head injury. Second, the last time Keith was in trouble, the league got it wrong. At the tail end of the 2015-16 season, Keith was suspended for the final five regular season games and first postseason game for the Blackhawks after a violent slash to the face of Minnesota Wild forward Charlie Coyle. Intentional, dangerous, and not unprecedented – Keith had a similar slashing incident with the Los Angeles Kings’ Jeff Carter in the 2013 playoffs – Keith somehow escaped with just six games when Boston Bruins defenseman Marty McSorley received a season-long suspension for his notorious slash back in 2000. The league was simply far too lenient in their response and the suspension was universally panned. This would be a chance to make up for that mistake which, even three years later, is still fresh. At the end of the day, Keith is probably safe, but the NHL Department of Player Safety will certainly take a look and has fair reason to tack on a fine or suspension.