Go ahead and blame Brendan Shanahan for the one-game suspension he handed Nicklas Backstrom late Tuesday night.
And while youre at it feel free to blame referees Chris Lee and Wes McCauley, who slapped Backstrom with a match penalty at the conclusion of a very chippy Game 3 at the Verizon Center.
If youd like, you can also blame Bruins coach Claude Julien, who after Game 1 brought to the attention of officials that the Capitals had a habit of coming up high with their sticks.
But if youre looking for the real reason Backstrom will be sitting in the press box for Thursday nights pivotasl Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, look no further than Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber.
When Weber was not suspended for repeatedly slamming the head of Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg into the glass there was a public outcry, rightfully so. Weber could have and should have been suspended a minimum of three games for the hit, which was a deliberate attempt to injure.
Instead, Weber was slapped it was more like a love tap -- with a 2,500 fine. Thats the equivalent of someone making 50,000 a year asked to pay a 15 parking ticket.
Shanahans light-handed discipline on Weber had two results. First, it told players around the NHL that anything goes in the playoffs. Secondly, it opened the floodgates for critics to paint the Stanley Cup playoffs as little more than Ultimate Fighting on skates.
After dropping the ball on the Weber ruling, Shanahan had no choice than to dole out stiffer penalties for every infraction that was placed on his office desk. Since the Weber incident Shanahan has issued eight suspensions in five days, totaling 16 games.
Was Backstroms cross- check to the chin of Bruins forward Rich Peverley reckless and unnecessary? Yes.
Was it any more reckless and unnecessary than the cross-check Alex Ovechkin gave Dennis Seidenberg along the boards in Game 2, which did not result in a penalty? Probably not.
But after the botched ruling on Weber, Shanahan had no choice but to rule with a heavier hand. Unfortunately for the Capitals, that means losing one of their most gifted playmakers for a game they desperately need to win.