Ramblings: Post-play-in interviews; Kase, Krejci, and DeBrusk; Backstrom injured – August 13

Michael Clifford

2020-08-13

It was clean out day for teams that have been eliminated. There were lots of quotes to come out of the Toronto dressing room – Auston Matthews used "embarrassing"; Zach Hyman used some variation of "sucks" a lot – but I'll leave those alone for now. They need to back up words with actions. What I do want to talk about is penalties.

The five overtimes game between Columbus and Tampa Bay was hard to watch, but not because of the hockey. Here's the thing: deciding to put the whistle away in the playoffs (and especially playoff overtime) isn't remaining neutral, it's actively levelling the playing field for one of the teams. When you allow holding, hooking, and obstruction, you're allowing the less-skilled players to increase their value to their team outside the rules. I don't know what referees miss about that. They're allowing players and teams to illegally gain an advantage they wouldn't otherwise have, and it disproportionately penalizes teams that play within the rules.

Why did we have five overtimes? Because they called two penalties after regulation. And one was a puck-over-glass. Are we to believe that two teams playing 2 ½ games get cleaner as the game wears on? Did anyone watch that game in its entire and believe only two infractions occurred in overtime, or even five? Ten?

It's tiresome. Call the penalties. Again, this isn't remaining neutral, it's picking the side of the worse teams and players and giving them a Super Mario star. Start calling the rulebook.

*

There will be changes to come for the Penguins. Mike Sullivan is still around but the assistant coaches, including Mark Recchi and Sergei Gonchar, are gone. There's no telling what will happen here.

My one gripe here is that the conversations going are now are the same conversations we had five years ago. Some people wanted one of Evgeni Malkin or Kris Letang (or both) gone. Then they won two Cups. Everyone is older now, but this team had a better points percentage in the regular season than Vegas or Carolina and a better expected goal share than Cup contenders like Washington and Philadelphia. Sometimes, your coach is hell-bent on giving Jack Johnson ice time in the playoffs, and your team pays for it. Such is life.

There are options. Malkin has just two years left on his contract and will be 36 years old for his next one. Maybe now is the time to make that monster deal? Or maybe something smaller like trading Bjugstad or McCann. Or, and hear me out, don't keep playing Jack Johnson.

*

Carolina coach Rod Brind'Amour was fined $25 000 for comments after the game on Wednesday and will be fined $25 000 for any criticism of officials going forward. His criticism was that the officials didn't even tell him the call on the ice so that he could challenge said call. Feels like a legitimate gripe, but as I outlined above, expecting the referees to do their job isn't realistic.

*

The Bruins took the first game of their first-round matchup with Carolina 4-3 in a measly second overtime. That was the game postponed by the monstrosity of CBJ/TB Game 1. Had this game gone on much longer, it may have put Philadelphia/Montreal in danger of being moved. These playoffs, man.

This shouldn't come as much of a surprise, but the Bruins looked real good in this one. It was night-and-day from the round robin, almost as if they didn't care about them at all. Anyway, Patrice Bergeron scored the overtime winner, becoming Boston's franchise leader in playoff OT goals. His line combined for two goals and four assists, so I'd say they're back to normal.

Ondrej Kase skated 18:15 at 5-on-5 in this game, more than any player on the top line. Though every player in the top-6 played at least 22 minutes. That kind of split would be good news for Kase, David Krejci, and Jake DeBrusk. If Boston does decide to just give very top-heavy minutes to the entire top-6, it would change the approach to the daily game. Something to monitor.

*

Nicklas Backstrom took what I thought was a late hit from Anders Lee in the first period of the Capitals/Islanders game on Wednesday, left the game, and did not return. Lee had to answer with a fight, but if Backstrom is out for an extended period of time, that's a trade-off the Islanders will make every time. I think it's easily worth a suspension. We'll see what actually happens.

The Islanders fell in a 2-0 hole to the Caps but reeled off four straight goals to take Game 1 by a score of 4-2. Josh Bailey led the way with a goal and an assist, with Jordan Eberle, Anders Lee, and Anthony Beauvillier picking up the other tallies.

This was a rough game from Braden Holtby. He straight whiffed on one goal that he easily should have had and generally reminded me of the Holtby of the last couple years. If this level of performance maintains, he won't be the starter for very long. Do we see a reverse of what happened in 2018? It would be fitting for this year.

John Carlson, by the way, was in the lineup for Washington. He played over 22 minutes and had a pair of helpers.

*

Darcy Kuemper turned in a masterful effort for Arizona's opener against Colorado but the floodgates eventually opened. At one point that I can remember, the Avalanche were outshooting the Coyotes 29-7, but the game was still 0-0 with seven minutes left in the third. Then in a span of 90 seconds, Nazem Kadri, J.T. Compher, and Mikko Rantanen piled three goals on the board for the Avalanche, and that was it for Arizona.

The Coyotes were thoroughly dominated by the Avalanche in Game 1, though I will say I thought the second line of Lawson Crouse, Derek Stepan, and Clayton Keller played well together. Lines were eventually shuffled – that'll happen when you're being outshot by a 3:1 margin – but I would put them back together and move Conor Garland back to the top line. Just a thought.

A thought here but I do think the defence of Colorado is generally underrated. It's probably not even avoidable, really, when looking at all the talent the team has up front, plus the offensive supernova that is Cale Makar. But this team was tied with Vegas and St. Louis in expected goal share at 5-on-5 this regular season, and were fourth in actual goals against. Now, their goaltending deserves a lot of credit here and the forwards always play a part as well, but even through all the injuries to the forwards this year, the blue line still held up comparably to other defensive stalwarts around the league. That's what makes them such a dangerous team. They can flat-out run up the score, or they can shut things down, as they did Wednesday. I don't think they really have a weak pair, either. Yes, they have a top pair and so on down, but even their depth is good. With Byram on the way…

Nathan MacKinnon was held to zero shots even though his team had 40. That has to be a bit of a shocker.

*

It was clean out day for teams that have been eliminated. There were lots of quotes to come out of the Toronto dressing room – Auston Matthews used "embarrassing"; Zach Hyman used some variation of "sucks" a lot – but I'll leave those alone for now. They need to back up words with actions. What I do want to talk about is penalties.

The five overtimes game between Columbus and Tampa Bay was hard to watch, but not because of the hockey. Here's the thing: deciding to put the whistle away in the playoffs (and especially playoff overtime) isn't remaining neutral, it's actively levelling the playing field for one of the teams. When you allow holding, hooking, and obstruction, you're allowing the less-skilled players to increase their value to their team outside the rules. I don't know what referees miss about that. They're allowing players and teams to illegally gain an advantage they wouldn't otherwise have, and it disproportionately penalizes teams that play within the rules.

Why did we have five overtimes? Because they called two penalties after regulation. And one was a puck-over-glass. Are we to believe that two teams playing 2 ½ games get cleaner as the game wears on? Did anyone watch that game in its entire and believe only two infractions occurred in overtime, or even five? Ten?

It's tiresome. Call the penalties. Again, this isn't remaining neutral, it's picking the side of the worse teams and players and giving them a Super Mario star. Start calling the rulebook.

*

There will be changes to come for the Penguins. Mike Sullivan is still around but the assistant coaches, including Mark Recchi and Sergei Gonchar, are gone. There's no telling what will happen here.

My one gripe here is that the conversations going are now are the same conversations we had five years ago. Some people wanted one of Evgeni Malkin or Kris Letang (or both) gone. Then they won two Cups. Everyone is older now, but this team had a better points percentage in the regular season than Vegas or Carolina and a better expected goal share than Cup contenders like Washington and Philadelphia. Sometimes, your coach is hell-bent on giving Jack Johnson ice time in the playoffs, and your team pays for it. Such is life.

There are options. Malkin has just two years left on his contract and will be 36 years old for his next one. Maybe now is the time to make that monster deal? Or maybe something smaller like trading Bjugstad or McCann. Or, and hear me out, don't keep playing Jack Johnson.

*

Carolina coach Rod Brind'Amour was fined $25 000 for comments after the game on Wednesday and will be fined $25 000 for any criticism of officials going forward. His criticism was that the officials didn't even tell him the call on the ice so that he could challenge said call. Feels like a legitimate gripe, but as I outlined above, expecting the referees to do their job isn't realistic.

*

The Bruins took the first game of their first-round matchup with Carolina 4-3 in a measly second overtime. That was the game postponed by the monstrosity of CBJ/TB Game 1. Had this game gone on much longer, it may have put Philadelphia/Montreal in danger of being moved. These playoffs, man.

This shouldn't come as much of a surprise, but the Bruins looked real good in this one. It was night-and-day from the round robin, almost as if they didn't care about them at all. Anyway, Patrice Bergeron scored the overtime winner, becoming Boston's franchise leader in playoff OT goals. His line combined for two goals and four assists, so I'd say they're back to normal.

Ondrej Kase skated 18:15 at 5-on-5 in this game, more than any player on the top line. Though every player in the top-6 played at least 22 minutes. That kind of split would be good news for Kase, David Krejci, and Jake DeBrusk. If Boston does decide to just give very top-heavy minutes to the entire top-6, it would change the approach to the daily game. Something to monitor.

*

Nicklas Backstrom took what I thought was a late hit from Anders Lee in the first period of the Capitals/Islanders game on Wednesday, left the game, and did not return. Lee had to answer with a fight, but if Backstrom is out for an extended period of time, that's a trade-off the Islanders will make every time. I think it's easily worth a suspension. We'll see what actually happens.

The Islanders fell in a 2-0 hole to the Caps but reeled off four straight goals to take Game 1 by a score of 4-2. Josh Bailey led the way with a goal and an assist, with Jordan Eberle, Anders Lee, and Anthony Beauvillier picking up the other tallies.

This was a rough game from Braden Holtby. He straight whiffed on one goal that he easily should have had and generally reminded me of the Holtby of the last couple years. If this level of performance maintains, he won't be the starter for very long. Do we see a reverse of what happened in 2018? It would be fitting for this year.

John Carlson, by the way, was in the lineup for Washington. He played over 22 minutes and had a pair of helpers.

*

Darcy Kuemper turned in a masterful effort for Arizona's opener against Colorado but the floodgates eventually opened. At one point that I can remember, the Avalanche were outshooting the Coyotes 29-7, but the game was still 0-0 with seven minutes left in the third. Then in a span of 90 seconds, Nazem Kadri, J.T. Compher, and Mikko Rantanen piled three goals on the board for the Avalanche, and that was it for Arizona.

The Coyotes were thoroughly dominated by the Avalanche in Game 1, though I will say I thought the second line of Lawson Crouse, Derek Stepan, and Clayton Keller played well together. Lines were eventually shuffled – that'll happen when you're being outshot by a 3:1 margin – but I would put them back together and move Conor Garland back to the top line. Just a thought.

A thought here but I do think the defence of Colorado is generally underrated. It's probably not even avoidable, really, when looking at all the talent the team has up front, plus the offensive supernova that is Cale Makar. But this team was tied with Vegas and St. Louis in expected goal share at 5-on-5 this regular season, and were fourth in actual goals against. Now, their goaltending deserves a lot of credit here and the forwards always play a part as well, but even through all the injuries to the forwards this year, the blue line still held up comparably to other defensive stalwarts around the league. That's what makes them such a dangerous team. They can flat-out run up the score, or they can shut things down, as they did Wednesday. I don't think they really have a weak pair, either. Yes, they have a top pair and so on down, but even their depth is good. With Byram on the way…

Nathan MacKinnon was held to zero shots even though his team had 40. That has to be a bit of a shocker.

*

Philadelphia carried the play in the first period and got a power-play goal from Ivan Provorov. With Montreal carrying the play in the second, Carey Price did this:

 

 

Yes, he got the tip of his stick on it, it barely missed Nick Suzuki's head, and went out of play. Just unbelievable on all counts.

The Flyers held on for a 2-1 win and a 1-0 series lead. Joel Farabee stayed on the top line all night and scored the game-winner.

*

Vancouver skated away with a 5-2 win in Game 1 over St. Louis. Bo Horvat had a pair of goals, including the ice-breaker on the power play not even five minutes into the contest. It's probably fair to say that St. Louis controlled the play, but they had a hard time generating quality chances. A lot of their shots were coming from outside the faceoff circles, and those kinds of shots are too easy for a goalie like Jacob Markstrom. Full marks to Vancouver's defence on this night; they did the job.

It's worth noting that St. Louis's fourth line barely got any ice time (all under seven minutes). That should mean a lot more minutes for the third line, and Robert Thomas specifically. This is his chance to start establishing himself as an upper-tier centre. I hope he does it.

Horvat just keeps impressing. So much fun to watch him grow as a player.

UPCOMING GAMES

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STARTING GOALIES

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HOT PLAYERS

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LINE COMBOS

  Frequency S.J Players
22.8% MELKER KARLSSON JOEL KELLMAN STEFAN NOESEN
19.5% NOAH GREGOR EVANDER KANE KEVIN LABANC
14.9% LEAN BERGMANN DYLAN GAMBRELL ANTTI SUOMELA

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