Malkin, Seguin, Gaborik return; continuing the video replay discussion, plus more…
Not wanting to break up the Phil Kessel – Nick Bonino – Carl Hagelin line that has finally lit a fire under Kessel, Mike Sullivan placed Evgeni Malkin with the less proven Conor Sheary and Bryan Rust in Malkin’s return to the lineup on Saturday. And no, I’m not buying the theory floating around that the red-hot Penguins are a worse team with Malkin in the lineup.
Malkin recorded a power-play assist with no shots on goal in his return, but Kessel continues to be hot. That’s three points in two playoff games to add to the 12 points in nine games that he scored to close out the regular season.
Kessel will be an interesting player to rank next season. He should no longer be considered first or second-round material given his declining production over the last two seasons. But he appears to have finally adjusted to his new surroundings, so perhaps he shouldn’t fall that far beyond his previous preseason rankings.
Perhaps the fact that Henrik Lundqvist was able to return from injury, yet one of the Penguins’ top two goalies wasn’t, gave the Rangers the advantage in Game 2. The Pens better hope that Marc-Andre Fleury really is ready to go for Game 3, otherwise the underdog Rangers’ chances of winning this series suddenly look a whole lot better.
Thank heaven Steve Mason didn’t do this to me during my fantasy championship week.
That goal has to top these two from Nicklas Lidstrom as perhaps the worst goals to allow during a playoff game.
That first center ice goal was the turning point of the Canucks/Red Wings playoff series back in 2002. The Canucks won two games in Detroit and were tied 1-1 late in the second period of Game 3 when the goal happened. Detroit ended up winning the series in six games. Hopefully Mason is able to put this behind him, although the goal really wasn’t the difference in this game.
Nicklas Backstrom was in on the Capitals’ other three goals, scoring a goal and adding two assists. But Braden Holtby was the real star for the Capitals, stopping 41 shots in the 4-1 win. The Flyers were actually able to double their shot total in Game 2, which might be a promising sign for them heading into Game 3. But these Capitals look like they are too much for the Flyers to handle. Especially with Holtby as dialed in as he is right now.
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) April 17, 2016
Tyler Seguin made his return to the lineup on Saturday, being held without a point while taking one shot on goal in 15:40 of icetime. Colorful Stars color man Daryl Reaugh described Seguin as “that car entering the interstate that doesn’t have enough horsepower or torque to keep up.” Reaugh made that reference near the final minute of the game, when Seguin looked spent on the bench while his teammates were trying to protect a one-goal lead. Seguin might need some time to get his game legs back, particularly with the amped-up pace of the playoffs.
I’ve criticized Stars’ goaltending more than once. So I’ll admit that Kari Lehtonen has been up to the task so far, allowing just one goal in two games. Yet it’s worth mentioning that only Detroit and Philadelphia had lower goals-per-game totals than Minnesota among playoff teams. Plus the Wild are without Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek because of injuries. So I’d wait and see on Lehtonen when the Stars play either Chicago or St. Louis (assuming they finish the job against Minny).
The Mason goal wasn’t the only strange goal of the night. Check out this one off Devan Dubnyk’s head.
So what’s the best rivalry in hockey today? You might consider the Kings and Sharks if you’ve watched at least a few minutes of that series. Not a ton of offense or even shots at times (12 combined after the first period), but lots of intensity and finishing of checks (47 hits for the Kings, 40 for the Sharks). Then there’s the storyline of the teams’ last series, when the Kings rallied from an 0-3 deficit to knock off the Sharks in 2014.
But my pick for the Stanley Cup is now falling into Quick-sand with another multiple-game deficit against the Sharks. Quick looked out of position an awful lot in this game. Martin Jones looked like the goalie that was more in control, stopping 25 of 26 shots he faced. Expect Jones to be on a longer leash now that the Sharks will be pocketing two wins back to San Jose.
Marian Gaborik also made his return, although he did not score a point with four shots on goal in 14 minutes of icetime. With just 22 points in 54 games this season, Gaborik is falling off the fantasy map.
Although Vincent Lecavalier played just 12 minutes in this game, he made those minutes count. Vinny scored the Kings’ only goal late while seeing some power-play time and important icetime late in the game. He also had the highest faceoff win percentage among Kings’ centers (9 for 13 in the dot).
During the Saturday Ramblings, Neil gave us his rant on the state of video replay during the playoffs. It was certainly an interesting read, if you haven’t had the chance to see it already. Although I won’t spend as much time on the topic today, I’ll provide my two cents worth below.
What I Like
The purpose of video review is to make the call right. I’m thinking of what hockey (and sports in general) was like before video review, when many fans would complain about that missed call or wrong call that could have been solved by guess what… video review. As much as the officials we have are the best in their field (if you don’t believe me, you’ve never experienced replacement officials), they are human and can be fallible to the bad call every now and then. If the game is held up a minute or two to verify the call on the field, I don’t have a problem with that.
For that reason, going to video to check the Blues’ offside goal or the Blackhawks’ goalie interference goal makes sense. That leaves us with the “what is or isn’t a goal/penalty/catch etc.” argument, which is a whole other debate. My short answer to that: use common sense. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. And by that I mean the spirit of the law should prevail over the letter of the law. Sorry Sabres fans, but Brett Hull’s foot didn’t interfere with Dominik Hasek. It’s a good goal to me. If Brett Hull bowled into Hasek and the puck trickled in, then there’s no way it should count.
What I Don’t Like
What I don’t understand is why there was not one, but two video reviews on the Andrew Shaw goal. The NHL reviews the call on the ice, then Ken Hitchcock challenges the review? So what happens next if the goal is overturned? Hypothetically speaking, could Joel Quenneville use his coach’s challenge in order to have a third look at the goal? This seems excessive to me. One look at the play should be all that is needed, no matter who calls it. As much as we need the right call, we need to eventually get on with the game.
You’re never going to have 100 percent of the fans happy with the outcomes of each call. And there probably still will be wrong calls, just not as many. But sometimes life isn’t fair. The older you get, the more you realize that to be true.
I believe Neil’s in the Eastern time zone, so it’s understandable if he didn’t stay up late to watch the Anaheim/Nashville game. I’m a West Coast guy, so usually the late games are the easiest ones for me to watch. But I missed the third period of this game because my current bout with allergies forced me to go to bed early. But I’ll comment on something I did see.
One player that stood out to me on the Ducks is Ryan Kesler. I’ve said in the past that the Ducks will be sorry that they signed him to that lengthy contract, given his declining returns and overall wear and tear. That still may be true, but he’s giving the Ducks their money’s worth today. Kesler scored a goal in 21 minutes of icetime in Game 1 while taking 28 faceoffs and winning 15.
Check out Kesler’s splits from this season.
October/November/December: 36 GP, 12 points
January/February/March: 43 GP, 41 points
Enjoy your Sunday. Follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.