The Chicago Blackhawks won their eighth consecutive game on Thursday, knocking off the Boston Bruins 3-2 at TD Garden. Even with the victory, it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine that the team had other things on their mind as they headed off the ice in Beantown.
That’s because team captain Jonathan Toews was forced from the game in the second period with an upper-body injury. Just after a 5-on-3 power play expired about midway through the frame, Toews had trouble corralling a puck near the goal line. As he turned toward the boards to play the puck, Boston defenseman Dennis Seidenberg drilled him from behind, sending the captain head-first into the barrier.
Toews was slow to get up after the hit, but he stayed in the game for another shift before committing a penalty a few minutes later. After Toews got out of the box, he headed into the dressing room, and he was kept out for the remainder of the game.
As the game was going on, there was some concern expressed by media members and fans alike about how the team handled the injury. When looking at the replay, it’s clear that Toews’ head was the primary point of impact against the boards, and watching his head snap back after hitting the barrier is frankly jarring. He was clearly trying to shake off the hit when he was sitting in the penalty box following his hit, which begs the question: did the Blackhawks handle the injury properly?
In a word, no. Head coach Joel Quenneville said after the game that Toews was pushing to get back into the game when Seidenberg was sent to the penalty box for the hit, but the decision should not have been the captain’s. Hockey players are always going to try to get back into a game even if it’s detrimental to their health, and that’s why the NHL has adopted all sorts of concussion protocols designed to take that decision out of the players’ hands.
What makes the situation worse is that this isn’t the Hawks’ first rodeo when it comes to questionable procedures for handling injuries. Toews himself admitted to playing with a concussion earlier in his career. Niklas Hjalmarsson also rushed back from a concussion in 2012, missing an additional two weeks after he returned to the lineup the first time. Finally, Andrew Shaw came back quickly in 2013 after being elbowed in the head by Paul Stastny, raising more questions about concussions.
Needless to say, the Blackhawks handled the situation poorly in letting Toews skate, and even if he turns out to be fine and can play in their next game on Saturday, letting him back on the ice after that kind of a hit was a foolish risk that they shouldn’t have taken.