There is just nothing better in professional sports, in my humble opinion, than NHL playoff hockey. And even within the general awesomeness that is NHL playoff hockey: the first round is king.
We’ve seen proof of that already this week, and there was more of the same on Saturday. For example, I think it’s fair to say that Sunday’s nasty Blues v. Blackhawks overtime thriller in Game 2 was the second classic game of that series. The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, scored their first playoff victory in the franchise’s 14 year history; and it was a memorable one, with Matt Calvert playing the hero in overtime to level the series against the Penguins.
The Wild v. Avalanche series doesn’t interest me nearly as much in a vacuum, but what Nathan MacKinnon is doing right now is just stupendous – 7 points in his first two career playoff games? What? Also the final few minutes of Saturday night’s Game 2 between the Wild and the Avs was riotously funny, an entertaing calamity of officiating.
Let’s get to it, shall we?
The St. Louis Blues should consider themselves rather fortunate to be heading to Chicago with a two game lead in their series against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks. The Blues were a combined 112 seconds from losing both of their first two playoff games at home in regulation, but two late game-tying goals and two overtime winners have the Blues firmly in the drivers seat in this series.
Of course, the Blues have been in this spot before – last year they lost four straight to the Kings after taking a 2-0 series lead. Also, they’re incredibly banged up, and the infirmary list is expanding at a rapid pace.
T.J. Oshie returned to the ice on Saturday but didn’t seem to be himself, and was mostly ineffective (unless effectiveness is measured by ones ability to eat dozens of Niklas Hjalmarsson cross-checks after the whistle). Vladimir Sobotka also got banged up on a brutal knee-on-knee hit by Bryan Bickell, and the Blues may be without captain David Backes for the forseeable future as well.
Brent Seabrook’s hit on Backes is going to net a hefty suspension, as it should. Even if it’s the postseason, Seabrook is getting two games at minimum, and the precise length of his suspension will be determined in a telephone hearing on Sunday (so Seabrook is not out more than five).
Seabrook’s hit was like the all-dressed chip of bad hits: charging, interference, a rule 48 violation, failure to tuck the elbow, leaving the feet, picking the head. This is an open shut case – the precise type of hit the league needs to try and eliminate for the long-term health of the players, and the sport itself.