So here we are at the half way point of the Stanley Cup Play-offs, only 4 teams remaining. There have been quite a few surprises and if you made your selections based on last year’s results you may not have many players left in your pool. Pittsburgh and Nashville, the two teams that competed in last year’s final, have been eliminated. The biggest surprise this season has been the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Those of you that “gambled” on this first-year team should be doing very well in the pool. Here is a brief wrap-up of how the second round finished…
The Washington-Pittsburgh series did not disappoint. Ovechkin and Crosby played at a high level and both earned points in every game of the series. It was only fitting that the series ended when Crosby lost control of the puck and Ovechkin passed it to his team mate, Evgeny Kuznetsov, to score the winning goal in overtime. So, for the very first time, the Washington Capitals and Alex Ovechkin will be playing in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are still ticking after the Bruins tried to give them a licking. The most controversial part of the second round was an incident that occurred in Game 4 of the Boston-Tampa series. Boston Bruin player Brad Marchant licked a Tampa player right on the face. This created quite a buzz around the hockey world and some negative publicity for the NHL. Here we see a close-up of what occurred.
There are no specific rules which cover such an action and Marchant was not punished. A video tape of the play shows that the on-ice officials would have had a very hard time witnessing this act. It is possible that one of the linesmen had an angle that would have given him a view. Years ago, the NHL removed the Gross Misconduct penalty from the Rulebook. This incident would most certainly have fallen under that category. Had the officials witnessed the act, they could have assessed either a minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, or, a 10 minute misconduct for attempting to incite your opponent. The NHL head office did review the situation but elected to only warn Marchant that any further such action would result in a suspension. This incident left a “bad taste”, even with Bruin fans, not something that we need in the game of hockey.
As mentioned, the Las Vegas Golden Knights have advanced to the Western Conference Final. They did this primarily due to the great goaltending of Marc-Andre Fleury. The Golden Knights are only the third team in NHL history to win multiple play-off series in their inaugural season. The shut-out victory in Game 6 of the series was the fourth time that Fleury did not allow a goal in these play-offs. Las Vegas was very wise when they selected Fleury to be their goaltender last spring. He was formerly the goaltender for the Pittsburgh Penguins so he has been to the Stanley Cup Final in each of the past two seasons.
The only series that went seven games in the second round was the Nashville-Winnipeg series. These two teams posted the best records during the regular season. This was a very entertaining series with goals, hits and very loud crowd participation. The cities of Nashville and Winnipeg are considered to be small markets in the NHL. But the fans in both cities are very passionate about their teams and display this during each and every game. The downtown streets of both cities fill up prior to game time as close to 50,000 fans watch the game both inside and outside of the arenas. Winnipeg won Game 7 with a 5-1 victory. Their leading scorer, Mark Scheifele, set a record by scoring 7 goals in a series, all in the visiting team’s arena. The Jets now have three players in the top 15 of play-off scoring.
There is no rest for hockey fans as the Third Round of the play-offs starts Thursday night. If these series go the full seven games then there will be hockey every single night from May 11th till May 24th. We are only half way to the finish line with many, many, more exciting games to be played.
Former NHL Referee #18