By Ben Meyer-Abbott
The Phoenix Coyotes offered an interesting study in contrast with regards to headshots the past several days.
Following their 4-3 overtime loss Saturday in Game 2 of their first-round series with the Blackhawks, the Coyotes players and coach seemed to have total recall with regards to Andrew Shaw's hit to the head of Phoenix goalie Mike Smith.
"I mean he hits a goalie the head," Coyotes captain Shane Doan, who himself was suspended three games for an elbow to the head of the Dallas Stars' Jamie Benn, said at the time. "They want to get rid of blows to the head, period. Trust me, I know."
The hit earned the Hawks' rookie winger a three-game suspension, something the Coyotes appeared to be angling for immediately following the Game 2.
"It's a blow to our goalie's head behind the net," Doan said on Saturday. "I know that the [general managers] had talked about how that's something they want definitely want to make sure that doesn't ever get into the game and we've got to protect our goalies."
Just three days later, though - when it was their teammate and habitual headshot offender, Raffi Torres, whose shoulder-to-the-head hit of Marian Hossa in Game 3 on Tuesday sent the Hawks winger to the hospital that was up for discussion - it was as if there were all apart of a casting call for the lead role in the Broadway musical 'Tommy.' Torres has an in-person disciplinary hearing Friday with the league for it.
But none of the Coyotes saw it, heard it and even those who did talk about it weren't saying much.
"I didn't see it, I haven't seen it but from what I was told it wasn't that bad," Doan said. "... From the players on the bench, [they] said it was a clean hit."
But with the inconsistency the NHL has shown in doling out punishments during its most penalty-laden postseason since 2006, it's hard to blame the players for their partisan views on headshots.
NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan has been all over the map when punishing hits to the head these playoffs.
He handed out multiple-game suspensions for certain hits, but only fined the Nashville Predators' Shea Weber a mere $2,500 (no, there's not another zero behind that five) for his double-turnbuckle head slam of the Detroit Red Wings' Henrik Zetterberg.
"It's hard, I mean they're trying," Doan said when asked if players trusted the league to make the right call on what punishment each particular headshot offender should get.
"I don't know if it's a trust factor. It's a tough job," Smith added following Game 3, the first time he was made available to the media after Shaw's hit to his head. "Whether it's blatant, on purpose or not it's tough to get that read out there."
Not three days earlier, the Coyotes were decidedly less inclined to see the gray area in the matter.
Hawks' captain Jonathan Toews, for one, wasn't sure what might becoming from the NHL when it came to the possible punishment Torres might receive.
"Who knows," Toews said after Game 3. "I don't know what to expect anymore, I don't think anyone does, so we'll see, it will probably be a surprise, I guess."