KEEP THOSE GOALS COMING!
We are well into the second round of the Stanley Cup play-offs and excitement continues to build on all fronts. With eleven games completed in Round 2, the teams are scoring at a record setting pace. Right now, the average goals per game sits at seven. Traditionally, play-off games revolve around defense, with scores such as 2-1.
The action is fast paced, hard hitting and filled with turnovers and defensive mistakes — fun for the fans although not for the coaches. Most coaches believe that the best way to win is to prevent pucks from going into your own net, not by trying to outscore your opponent. But hey, the fans in all eight remaining cities are loving the action.
In the Nashville-Winnipeg series, there is as much competition between the fans as there is between the players. For Game 2 in Nashville, the Predators kept it all in the family with their selection of anthem singer. Country singer Carey Underwood, wife of Predators centerman Mike Fisher (#12), sang the National Anthem. Her performance must have paid off as the Predators won Game 2 in overtime, 5-4.
While Nashville has its country stars and live music, the trademark of the Winnipeg crowd is their “white-outs” (everyone wears white clothing) and their humorous chants. The chant for Game 3 in Winnipeg was “Hold Our Beer”. Imagine a crowd of 17,000 people all dressed in white simultaneously chanting “Hold Our Beer”! This was in reference to the Nashville crowd from Game 2 that featured an (obviously over-served) Tennessee Titan NFL football team enjoying the hockey game, which provided all of us with online entertainment once various video clips went viral.
Washington-Pittsburgh action has been exactly what we have come to expect over the last three years. Two star players, Ovechkin and Crosby, are working very hard to outdo each other. In this year’s version of this match up, Washington has taken early leads only to have Crosby and his team come back, once successfully. When these two teams play each other, a two goal lead in a game can’t be considered a done deal. Washington holds the edge right now, the last game featuring a game winning goal late in the third period by Ovechkin. So far in this series, both Ovechkin and Crosby continue to deliver first-rate performances as they earned 4 points each.
In two of the three games, Tom Wilson of Washington delivered controversial body checks which made contact with the head of a Pittsburgh player. These “head shots” have become a very contentious point of debate within the hockey community. As discussed in a previous post, there can be a very fine line between legal contact on the body vs when the head is the main point of contact. In Game 2, the check that was delivered by Wilson made contact with the Pittsburgh player primarily due to the fact that the Pittsburgh player altered his body position at the last second. The result was that no suspension was issued for this hit. However, there is a possibility that Wilson will face a suspension for the hit that he delivered on Zach Aston-Reese of Pittsburgh during Game 3, which resulted in Aston-Reese sustaining a concussion as well as a broken jaw.
The Tampa Bay-Boston series has not disappointed in regards to goals, hits and even controversy. In Game 1 with a comfortable 3-1 lead, Boston got scored on while their goaltender was unable to skate. In a very strange play, the skate blade of Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask separated from his boot. Rask was left defenseless as he attempted to keep the puck out of the Boston net. On top of that, Boston was killing a penalty at the time. So, with one less player on the ice and a goaltender with only one skate blade, Boston’s lead was reduced to one goal. Here we can see the Boston goaltender’s reaction as he shows the Referee his broken skate blade.
Unfortunately for Boston, there is nothing in the NHL Official Rules, aka “The Rulebook”, which covers such a situation. With respect to goaltenders, the only equipment malfunction which would allow an official to stop play is when the goaltender’s face mask has been removed.
But a broken skate blade? This unusual situation created quite a stir, sending TV commentators scrambling to reference the Official Rules, trying to figure out if such a weird malfunction was accounted for. But nope, not covered in the rules. So, bottom line — this was allowed as a good goal.
In this situation, Tampa Bay had full control of the puck from the moment that Rask’s skate blade broke. If, at any time, Boston had gained possession and control of the puck, then the Referee would have stopped play. But since Tampa Bay maintained full possession and control of the puck, that didn’t apply. Fortunately for Boston, allowing this goal did not affect the final outcome — Boston still went on to win the game 6-2.
Las Vegas continues with their improbable play-off run as they now lead the San Jose Sharks two games to one. Game 1 featured a completely dominating 7-0 win by Las Vegas, not an expected result at this point in the season. Then the next two games needed overtime to decide the outcome. Game 2 featured some goal controversy during the first overtime period. Las Vegas scored what they thought was the game winning goal. Under the rules of video review, the situation room can initiate a goal review during overtime. So, while the Las Vegas players were celebrating what they thought was the winning goal, the situation room in Toronto was using video replay to determine if the goal was, in fact, legal.
Starting with this season’s play-offs, the situation room now has a former NHL Referee making the final decision on such goals. The determining factor in this case was if the San Jose goaltender was able to play his position untouched by an opponent while he was within his crease. It was determined that, since the goaltender had his feet planted firmly within his crease, and he was bumped by the Las Vegas player, that he could not hold his spot and properly play his position. This was a very difficult call, certainly best resolved through the use of video technology. San Jose went on to win this game, as they scored a legal goal in the second period of overtime. This was the first play-off loss in the history of the Las Vegas Knights, definitely a controversial way to reach this milestone.
The second round has not disappointed — action in the stands, borderline illegal physical checks, officiating controversy and, of course what we like best, lots and lots of goals. Keep those goals coming!
Former NHL Referee #18