Three games were played last night to kick off the 2016 NHL Playoffs and each of them had their own interesting controversies. In the Tampa game, there were issues with the ice; in the New York-Pittsburg game, the safety of goalie masks was brought into question, and in St. Louis, the game was decided in overtime after a scoreless first three periods — something the NHL doesn’t like to see.
The earliest game was an incredibly fast paced battle between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings that could have gone either way, Despite the speed, the ice at Tampa’s Amalie Arena didn’t seem to be particularly good. Players from both teams were tripping on their own from the very start of the game, a pattern that continued to the end. At one point, our television coverage showed a replay of Red Wing’s #13, Pavel Datsyuk, sliding on his rear end, legs first and spread in a “V”, heading into the boards. No one likes to see that.
With 1:40 left, the Red Wings pulled goaltender Jimmy Howard, and were buzzing Ben Bishop’s net and looked like they would score. That didn’t happen and Tampa Bay won, 3-2.
The second matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers saw the Penguins blowing away the Rangers, but an incident near the end of the first period took the Ranger’s starting goalie, Henrik Lundqvist, out of the game for the last two periods. Here’s an excerpt from NHL.com:
Lundqvist was injured with 48.2 seconds remaining in the first period. Cole took a slap shot with Rangers defenseman Marc Staal battling in front. Lundqvist made the save, but was hit by Staal’s stick blade under his facemask. Lundqvist stayed in the game and surrendered a goal 31 seconds later.
This is something that I’ve heard commentator and showman Don Cherry comment on before during his Coach’s Corner spot: that the goalie masks aren’t safe, and this is proof positive that something isn’t quite right.
Cherry’s been talking about this for a while. Back in 2013, Cherry’s spot featured a clip from a game (go to 4:48) where Vancouver Canuck‘s forward Henrik Sedin‘s blade slipped through the mask of Columbus Blue Jacket‘s goalie, Sergei Bobrovsky.
According to NHL, Lindqvist will be re-examined today. By the way, that game ended with a Penguin win, 5-2.
The last game on tap was between long-time rivals the Chicago Blackhawks against the St. Louis Blues (where the picture for this post came from thanks to St. Louis Blues fan Art Stutsman — thanks Art!). This game was a tough battle for both teams, who went scoreless through the first three periods – which is exactly how the NHL would prefer hockey NOT to be.
Chicago played their classic game of keep-the-puck-away-from-the-other-team and, combined with blocked shots, seriously limited the Blues’ scoring opportunities. The Blues managed a really ugly 4 shots on goal in the first period, and although things picked up for them, their SOG stats were dwarfed by the Blackhawks domination. At the end, the Blues managed 18 shots on goal, half as many as the 35 the Hawks were able to make.