THE TURNING POINT…
We are now at a crucial point in the Conference Finals, Game 4. With both the Western and Eastern Conference finals sitting at 2-1 in games, the fourth game will either result in the series being tied or give the home team a stranglehold.
Game 1 of the Western Conference Final resulted in a loss for the Vegas Golden Knights, so they made considerable changes to their game plan going forward — they elected to stay away from physical play. Vegas resorted to a “speed and motion” style of play while avoiding any concerted efforts to body check the much more physically dominating Winnipeg Jets. During the Game 1 loss, the Golden Knights delivered over 30 body checks. In Game 2, which resulted in a victory, the Golden Knights only administered a mere seven body checks.
So far in this series, the team that has scored the first goal is the team that wins the game. In Game 3 Vegas very quickly took charge of the game by scoring 35 seconds after the opening puck drop.
Only a very knowledgeable “poolie” would have predicted that the top two lines from these teams would combine for over 90 points. The Jets top line of Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor have combined for 50 points thus far in the play-offs. While from Vegas, the top line of William Karlsson, Johnathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith have registered 43 points. Clearly the top players on both teams are living up to expectations. Scheifele from the Jets is on pace to break a number of play-off scoring records.
In the Eastern Conference Final, we saw the Washington Capitals dominate the first two games. This series has seen the visiting team win in all three games. Things appeared to be going Tampa’s way in the second game. They got off to a strong start, were awarded a power play that they did not deserve, and led by one goal after the first period. However, Washington responded with 5 consecutive goals to win 6-2.
During the first period of the second game Washington was penalized for high sticking. Video evidence showed that there was not a high stick on the play. Here is photo evidence that it was the puck — and not the stick — that made contact with the Tampa player’s face.
Unfortunately, the Referee reacted to the fact that the Tampa player’s head moved when it contacted the puck. TJ Oshie of Washington was in the vicinity, and his stick was in the air, but it did not make contact with the Tampa player. A most unfortunate situation for the Referees. The action is fast and player’s reactions are not always indicative of what actually occurs. For a Referee, it is important to react to the action and not the result. The Referee that made this call was in the neutral zone and had the backs of the players in his sight line. He reacted to the proximity of Oshie’s stick and the movement of the Lightning player’s head. In this situation, if one of the other three on-ice officials was 100% certain that it was the puck and not the opponent’s stick contacting the head, then the officiating crew can rescind the minor penalty. The removal of this penalty, due to contact by the puck, is covered in the NHL Rulebook. Unfortunately, none of the officials were able to get a clear view of the play so that the correct call could be made. The fact that Tampa scored on this power play did not impact the final result of the game.
So, our turning point in each series is here. By Monday morning we could very well have only two teams remaining to compete for the Stanley Cup. Or, perhaps we will once again this spring be given the opportunity to watch a Game 7 to decide a series winner. Lots more hockey, lots more scoring and certainly lots more interesting action as we head closer to the conclusion of the NHL season.
Former NHL Referee #18