Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
Not being one to complain about the quality of officiating in an NHL game, or lack thereof, it was very strange to see the events of Saturday night's Eastern Conference Final Game 1 unfold as they did.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are, we would all agree, the better team in the series when it comes purely to playing the sport of hockey, and few gave the Boston Bruins too much of a chance to advance to their second Stanley Cup Final in three years, with just one caveat. If they could agitate the Penguins into "playing their game," rather than that which Pittsburgh prefers, they at least had a chance. So far, so good.
The Penguins, who spent much of this season loath to be drawn into these types of incidents, were very much dismayed by the Bruins' behind-the-play rough stuff and insistence on finishing every check, and this issue was only exacerbated when David Krejci scored an ugly goal against the run of play midway through the first.
The Penguins had, to that point, not spent too much time actually trailing on home ice; they lost a pair of home games to the Islanders but apart from third-period goals, the amount of actual minutes spent behind on the scoreboard was minimal. They looked uncomfortable being down that early, and not having a way to answer back within less than a minute or two, as they had previously.
It was no real surprise that this situation, coupled with the Bruins' continual work along the boards to finish every check with as much authority as possible, caused things to come to a head early in the second. Just 1:38 in, Matt Cooke confirmed what every living-in-the-past Boston media member and fan has been saying about him: He hasn't changed at all. The five-and-a-game he got for running Adam McQuaid was well-deserved, regardless of how long the Bruins' defenseman, who has a history of concussions, lay prone on the ice, possibly (probably) trying to draw a call.
The refs did the only thing they could do there; and though the call was controversial in the greater Pittsburgh area, they at least tried, at that point, to keep things from boiling over. They did the opposite when Brad Marchand ran James Neal from behind in a not-so-similar situation about 10 minutes later. Marchand, who should have a status as a dirty player just as extreme as Cooke's if not worse, only got two for boarding. And that was when the game went completely out of control.
Sidney Crosby is right that the officials allowed things to escalate in that game, but shockingly went without mentioning the role the wound-up Penguins had in proceedings.
Marchand could have gotten five as well, and the only people who would be mad about it, really, were Bruins fans and players, who wouldn't have found the irony in their complaints about Matt Cooke if you drew them a map. That he didn't was what led directly to the Jarome Iginla/Chris Kelly run-in that in turn provided the impetus for the Crosby/Zdeno Chara/Tuukka Rask incident and the Evgeni Malkin/Patrice Bergeron fight. All of it stupid, all of it ultimately pointless.
Those hard feelings didn't go away in the third period, despite the refs letting everything but an innocuous Crosby slash on Tyler Seguin very late in the proceedings go without raising their eyebrows. And from all the talk immediately following the game, it seems as though the Penguins are feeling hard done by in all this.
(Again, there is inherent irony that Pittsburgh is the team that finds itself complaining about officiating going against it, but here we are.)
And one has to wonder what that means for tonight's Game 2.
On the one hand, the Penguins could put it all behind them, start this one with a blank slate, and focus on trying to run up the score rather than settle it.
On the other, they could start playing like they did in the latter half of Game 1, which does them no favors. Any attempts to once again play that Boston style would be counterproductive for the Pens for obvious reasons, but moreover, it could lead to someone getting very badly hurt.
Despite their lack of the inclination for playing that way most of the time, the Penguins are perfectly capable of being a mean hockey team, and one has to imagine that any sort of intensification of hostilities doesn't end well. Cooke and Marchand already boarded people, and both teams are likewise stocked with guys who can and have done similar damage. Malkin has in the past shown a willingness to take a run at opposing players. So has Crosby. So has Neal. Cooke not having been suspended opens up another possible door in this regard.
The Bruins will be all too happy to oblige, if that's the case, because they can answer dirty with dirtier, such as throwing Marchand, McQuaid, Milan Lucic, and Andrew Ference over the boards at any given time.
Game 2 doesn't have to be one of those penalty-fests that has 20 minutes of power play time for each team, but the refs will have to have a much tighter grip on the reins than they did on Saturday, just to make sure things don't go totally off the rails.
Especially if the Penguins are losing early again.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: Sheldon Souray, a guy who got healthy-scratched in the playoffs and only played due to injury when he actually got into games, gets a C+ or B- for the season. Two more deals left on his deal too. Good luck with that.
Boston Bruins: How about a hand for Tuukka Rask, who picked up his first-ever playoff shutout on Saturday in Pittsburgh and still can't get the Boston media to say at least some of it wasn't luck? The Penguins hit three posts in the game, you see.
Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres are holding their own scouting combine yesterday and today, but Seth Jones, Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin won't be there. Which is just as well since Buffalo doesn't have a chance at moving into the top three.
Calgary Flames: Is Alex Tanguay a buyout candidate in Calgary? Sure, but who isn't?
Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes released a teaser shot of the team's newest jersey yesterday, and it has laces for some reason. At least it's not another black jersey in a league full of 'em, I guess.
Chicago Blackhawks: This is how fast the entire Blackhawks team can get up in transition. It doesn't seem fair.
Colorado Avalanche: And now the first article in what I'm sure will be a lengthy series entitled, "No, we swear, Patrick Roy is actually a good coach."
Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets have three first round picks, and for new GM Jarmo Kekalainen, who's more or less considered a drafting genius, I suppose that's a good thing. They're picking 14th, 19th, and wherever the Kings end up.
Dallas Stars: The Stars have permission to speak with Dallas Eakins about their head coaching position but how is he gonna edge out Lindy Ruff, who interviewed last week?
Detroit Red Wings presented by Amway: Jimmy Howard played most of the Anaheim series and all of the Chicago series with a pulled hamstring, which can't have felt very good. That also makes his stunning performances throughout that Blackhawks series even more impressive.
Edmonton Oilers: Ryan Jones might be on his way out of Edmonton. "He just may not be good enough for the Oilers to make his return a priority." That's not exactly a ringing endorsement for whichever team picks him up.
Florida Panthers: The Panthers are at least entertaining offers for the No. 2 overall pick, and that seems only reasonable, but you gotta think there won't be many teams with the juice to get it.
Los Angeles Kings: Hey, Robyn Regehr, what went sideways for you guys in Game 1? "We didn't play very well, especially the first 40 minutes. We didn't do a very good job right off the start, getting outshot considerably the first two periods, not doing a good job coming out of our zone, turning pucks over, not sustaining pressure on the forecheck, all those things, we didn't do a very good job." That all seems about right.
Minnesota Wild: The Wild, along with the Oilers and Jets, are among the potential destinations for Finnish star goaltender Antti Raanta. The decision has been made, but now we're waiting for word. Of that group, doesn't it seem like the Oilers and Jets are fixed for goalies for a while, for better or worse?
Montreal Canadiens: Brandon Prust is now considered the Habs' "inspirational leader" because his being on the ice "makes his teammates feel bigger." Yup, that's great. He's still not worth anywhere near his contract.
Nashville Predators: Much like Florida, the Preds are willing to listen to offers for the No. 4 overall pick but if they trade it for anything less than a top-flight forward prospect who's about a year away from the NHL, they're out of their minds.
New Jersey Devils: Devils assistant Matt Shaw left the team to become the head coach and general manager of the USHL's Dubuque Fighting Saints. Now they need to find another guy who can say, "Yes, Mr. Lamoriello, whatever you say."
New York Islanders: Was the first-round bounce-out at the hands of the Penguins Mark Streit's last act as Isles captain? Yeah, probably it was. He was only fourth on the D corps in even-strength ice time.
Ottawa Senators: Should the Sens take a run at Bryan Bickell in the offseason? Yeah, that'd be smart for them, probably. One of the rare "toughness" guys that actually drives possession. (Though, on Chicago, who doesn't?)
Philadelphia Flyers: Goaltending prospect Anthony Stolarz is starting to look like a pretty strong prospect, but is at least three years away from even remotely being NHL-ready. Sorry, Flyers fans. No help yet.
Phoenix Coyotes: Today is Day No. 297 since Jude LaCava of Fox 10 in Arizona said Greg Jamison would have the deal for the Coyotes sewn up within the next five days. Meanwhile, that lack of an owner is probably going to lead Mike Smith to walk on July 5. Just as well for the Coyotes; let someone else overpay him.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Shout out to Matt Niskanen for correctly using "whom" while complaining about Matt Cooke getting that five-minute major for boarding Adam McQuaid. Can you tell that guy played college hockey or what?
San Jose Sharks: Todd McLellan chalks Marty Havlat's groin injury up to "Mother Nature." It's not a hurricane, Todd. It's "you acquired Marty Havlat."
St. Louis Blues: Ian Cole recently received a new two-year deal that will pay him $850,000 against the cap. Great deal. He was second among team defensemen in relative Corsi this season, albeit in an extremely limited sample size (about a third of the season).
Tampa Bay Lightning: Tampa paid Mattias Ohlund $10.5 million over the last two seasons. Number of minutes he's played for them in that time? Zero. He has $6.75 million more coming to him over the next three seasons, and they can't buy him out. Great contract.
Toronto Maple Leafs: This headline pretty well sums up the Leafs' coaching situation.
Vancouver Canucks: Having read this column, all I want in the whole world is for John Tortorella to coach the Canucks. The already-crybaby Vancouver media would lose its mind. Oh man.
Washington Capitals: Jeff Schultz definitely asked for a trade in mid-March and the Capitals should be only too happy to accommodate him because Jeff Schultz is Not Very Good.
Winnipeg Jets: Jets prospect Zach Yuen may or may not have rejected all attempts by the team to sign him, making him eligible to re-enter the draft in a few weeks, and placing him firmly in the "Dustin Byfuglien/Evander Kane" category for the media there, I'm sure.
Play of the Weekend
This was an amazing play by the Bruins because they hypnotized every Penguin on the ice into going to the puck side, leaving TWO guys wide open and scoring the easiest non-empty-net goal of the playoffs.
Gold Star Award
Speaking of, Nathan Horton had a goal and two assists in Game 1 despite the fact that he was on the ice against Crosby or Makin for all three. That's coming to play, and he's up to 15 points in these playoffs if you can believe that. Tied for fourth in the postseason.
Minus of the Weekend
The good news is Los Angeles made sure Robb Stark wasn't the only king that got killed last night.
Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
User "GreatSaveJesus" is killin' it and winnin' it.
Jets first round pick
Bonus points for spelling "Tavares" and "Burmistrov" wrong.
I think I messed up. I made Dad not like guns any more.