The series between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues has been a brutal one, with each teams playing an extremely physical brand of hockey. David Backes was claimed as its latest victim after he was on the receiving end of a devastating check by Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook.
The hit came late in the third period. Backes overskated the puck behind the Blackhawks net and Seabrook came in and just leveled him. Seabrook's shoulder appeared to make contact with Backes' head first, pushing the Blues captain into the boards and the ice.
Seabrook's feet appeared to come off the ice after he made contact, but his shoulder clearly made contact with Backes' head first.
Backes did not move for a few seconds after the hit as he laid on the ice. When he got to his feet, Backes looked bewildered and had trouble standing up. He received attention from the Blues' athletic trainer while jawing with some of the Blackhawks afterward. So at least he was somewhat his normal self. That look on his face as he tried to keep his feet was awfully scary though.
Seabrook received a five-minute major and game misconduct for charging. Odds are, he'll also be hearing from the NHL's Department of Player safety and could be staring down a multi-game suspension for this hit.
The Blues ended up scoring on the major penalty with 6.4 seconds remaining in the game to tie the score.
The fact that the head was the principle point of contact and Backes appeared to be injured on the play, this is going to be a heavily scrutinized incident.
Seabrook does not have a history of disciplinary action, which goes in his favor, but considering the nature of this hit and the important emphasis on head contact, this will not be granted much leniency. This will be the first major decision for player safety since former VP Brendan Shanahan left for a job with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Both teams lost extremely important players on the play as Backes left the game and did not return and Seabrook was ejected. Neither team can be happy about that tradeoff.
For the Blues, if Backes is out any amount of time it's a huge loss. After sitting out the last few games of the regular season, Backes returned for the playoffs and was a force through two games. His physical play and offensive presence were both huge factors through the first two games.
Seabrook has similarly been important for the Blackhawks, having scored twice in the series and logging major minutes for the defending Stanley Cup Champions.
Regardless of the outcome of this series, Seabrook's hit on Backes will be a pivotal moment.