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Andrew Shaw’s 3-game suspension more about changing behavior than makeup call

Sean Leahy
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AP

In March, NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan told our own Nick Cotsonika in regards to doling out suspensions: "I don't feel that we are in the punishment business. I feel we are in the changing-player-behavior business. And you do that by getting someone's attention."

Following a weekend full of violence and more suspensions still to come, Shanahan will surely grab the attention of many with the announcement that he's suspended Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw for three games after his collision with Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith on Saturday night.

Here's Shanahan's explanation:

Darren Dreger reports that Smith will play Tuesday night in Game 3 and had he been injured, Shaw would have sat the rest of this series.

Shaw explained his side of things to the media Tuesday morning after his hearing.

From the Chicago Tribune:

"(I told Shanahan) that I tried getting out of the way," Shaw said. "It wasn't the intent of hitting him, it was more of I didn't have enough time to get out of the way. I let (Shanahan) know next time I'll go in there with a little bit more control. I'm just waiting to hear the news.

"I watched the replay (Monday)," Shaw added. "I did make contact but it was just the intent. I didn't mean to do it. We'll let Brendan and staff figure out what the punishment will be."

As Shanahan states, it wasn't reasonable contact with Smith. Shaw went in trying to disrupt Smith as he was handling the puck and block his pass around the boards. That causes the contact of Shaw's shoulder with Smith's head. Incidental or not, in light of the Milan Lucic/Ryan Miller incident in November, players have been put on notice that goaltenders are not fair game. In this case, it's contact with a goaltender out of the crease and also contact with his head.

So with the attention of many now grabbed, this will be perceived by some as Shanahan finally dropping the hammer after outrage over previous decisions in this first week of the NHL playoffs. On the other side will be the ones harping on the continued lack of consistency, seeing as how Shea Weber, a repeat offender, skates away with a $2,500 fine, while Shaw, with no history, gets a three-game ban knowing that playoff games are weighed heavier than regular-season games.

[Related: Penguins' Matt Cooke is proof that NHL discipline can change behavior]

But it really just comes down to what Shanahan said last month. The three-game suspension isn't a makeup for slapping Weber on the wrists. It's telling players that if you're coming in on a goaltender who's behind their net, they aren't fair game. And if you do make contact, you better make an attempt to avoid the head.

Starting Tuesday night, you can bet that three games for Shaw will go a long ways to changing that behavior and thought process on the ice.

Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy

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