Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon is not afraid of the playoffs. He notched three assists in his post-season debut, then followed it up with this gem from Game 2:
Midway through the season, Ryan Johansen was sitting in the dressing room after a morning skate when I asked for an interview. I had interviewed Johansen as a prospect and he was always polite, but today he was confident and jovial. He slapped the bench and invited me to sit down beside him for the brief chat. That was new.
But as he proved in the Game 2 double-overtime win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, Johansen has hit his stride and is playing like a star in the making. Johansen had a goal and an assist in Columbus’ first playoff win in franchise history, a 4-3 triumph iced by Matt Calvert on a scramble in front of the Pittsburgh net.
Does David Backes’ pivot make head contact unavoidable? That’s the question the NHL will face when it decides whether or not to suspend Chicago’s Brent Seabrook, for this devastating bodycheck. Read more
As the second period of Friday’s Game 1 between Boston and Detroit wound down, Milan Lucic gave Danny DeKeyser a nasty slash to the groin from behind. The Red Wings defenseman dropped to the ice and Lucic was not penalized.
But he was fined $5,000 for the infraction Saturday and discussed it with the media after practice. He did not call DeKeyser a chicken. Read more
Back in 2001, the Colorado Avalanche had a chance to win the franchise’s second Stanley Cup in six years. Cornerstones such as Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Patrick Roy and Adam Foote already had their names on the chalice, but the addition of future Hall of Famer Ray Bourque the year before had given the crew extra incentive. Bourque, the longtime Boston Bruins stalwart, saw his dreams crash down in 2000 when Dallas eliminated Colorado in the Western Conference final. But he still wanted that elusive Cup, so he came back to Denver for one more season and his teammates instituted “Mission 16W,” a.k.a. Get Bourque his Cup. As a greying veteran he finally hoisted the trophy after a harrowing seven-game series against New Jersey and the iconic moment was his forever.
Fast-forward to present day and gaze upon the situation of Jarome Iginla. Like Bourque, he toiled for years with a franchise that came close, but could not grasp Stanley’s prize. Then the window closed, and despite the noblest of intentions to go down with the ship, Iginla was finally dealt away from his beloved Calgary Flames so the erstwhile captain could earn his championship ring. And like Bourque’s, Iginla’s first attempt went sideways. He joined Pittsburgh via trade, only to see the Penguins maced by Boston in the conference final. This summer, he decided to join the ones who beat him, and now the Bruins have a little added incentive to win their second Cup in four years.
“With ‘Iggy,’ he’s had a phenomenal career, he’s one of the best to ever play the game, and it would be a huge accomplishment if we could win,” says left winger Brad Marchand. “It would be a great honor to be part of that, but we’ve got a long way to go.”
Playoff pressure. Players feel it. Coaches try to control it. Fans freak out over it. And according to a recent study, referees can crack under it.
Michael Lopez, a doctoral student in biostatistics at Brown University, and Kevin Snyder, an assistant professor of sport management at Southern New Hampshire University, assessed the frequency of even-up calls in their paper, “Biased Impartiality among National Hockey League Referees,” published in the International Journal of Sport Finance. Lopez and Snyder found that referees exhibit what they call “biased impartiality.” Meaning, referees subconsciously try to make games as balanced as possible to achieve a perception of fairness.
Nothing nefarious there. The problem is referees may make even-up calls that unfairly balance the number of penalties between teams, and this can actually affect who wins. So despite their best attempts otherwise, refs often have a huge impact on playoff games.
As the Winnipeg Jets’ season wound down, a controversy involving one of their players flared up. Interim coach Paul Maurice made star winger Evander Kane a healthy scratch for a game in Toronto – and just like that, harsh words were hauled out to criticize the 22-year-old: he had an attitude; he was arrogant; he wasn’t a good fit with the Jets; he needed to be traded post-haste. If it sounded familiar, that’s because it was. Ever since the franchise relocated to Manitoba from Atlanta, Kane has been a target for critics.
Some of that, he’s earned. When he posed during the 2012-13 lockout in front of the lights of Las Vegas pretending a giant stack of money was his cell phone, fans and media rightfully ripped him for not understanding how it would be perceived.
But put aside the specifics of that situation for a second and answer these questions: Were you ever 21? Did you ever make a mistake at that age? Do you think that, if you were making millions of dollars and existed in a massive public fishbowl at that age, you might make the odd error in judgment?
The answer should be “yes.” That’s why there’s something about the relentless negativity surrounding Kane that doesn’t sit right. I’m not pointing to anyone specific when I say this, but I have to say it: some of the criticism hurled at Kane – as well as teammate Dustin Byfuglien and Canadiens star P.K. Subban – is about his race more than his character. It’s what Kane referred to last year when he told THN’s Ken Campbell “a good portion” of the criticism is racially motivated.
The NHL playoffs are famous for their increased physicality, but we’re only three days into the 2014 post-season and the nastiness is already starting to boil over. On Friday night alone, NHLers Jamie Benn and Danny Dekeyser found that out the hard way when both were speared in the groin area by Corey Perry and Milan Lucic respectively.
Lucic attacked the Red Wings defenseman from behind in Detroit’s 1-0 Game One first round win over Boston, jamming his stick into Dekeyser’s lower mid-section. No penalty was called on the play.