WINNIPEG 7 NASHVILLE 4 (Jets lead series 2-1)
This didn’t start well for the Jets, but man you really missed something if you walked away after the first period. After giving up 3 to the Preds (Mike Fisher, PK Subban and Austin Watson) in a first period that they seemed not prepared for, they came back with a vengeance in the 2nd, tying the game in a 4 minute span, including two goals while the teams played 4 on 4. Paul Stastny, Dustin Byfuglien and Jacob Trouba scored for Winnipeg to tie it up, then Byfuglien added another late in the period for a 4-3 lead after 40. Filip Forsberg would tie it up in the 3rd, but Nashville got into some penalty trouble, and that led to the winner from Blake Wheeler on the PP. Wheeler and Brandon Tanev would score empty netters to seal the deal and retake the series lead. If the Jets hope to make it further, Connor Hellebuyck is gonna need to tighten things up. Giving up 4 a game ain’t gonna bring you to the promised land.
WASHINGTON 4 PITTSBURGH 3 (Capitals lead series 2-1)
This game, like the other contest last night was a pretty epic battle, though it was marred by (wait for it...) an ugly headshot from Tom Wilson. We’ll get to that in a minute. After a scoreless first, the teams exchanged 5 goals, with Sidney Crosby giving the Penguins a 3-2 lead heading into the 3rd. Matt Niskanen would tie it, setting the stage for some late period heroics from Alex Ovechkin and a goal that seems kinda familiar...
Washington’s Tom Wilson will have a hearing today for an illegal check to the head on Pittsburgh’s Zach Aston-Reese.— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) May 2, 2018
Now, onto Wilson. As you may remember, Wilson was the subject of criticism for his hit to the head of Brian Dumoulin in Game 2. Dumoulin didn’t return but was good to go for Game 3. Last night Wilson struck again, this time it was on Zach Aston-Reese.
The hit broke Aston-Reese’s jaw and gave him a concussion. Wilson has now been summoned for a hearing by DoPS, but given the numerous talking heads pointing out that the original point of contact was the shoulder, that this was just “unfortunate”. How bad is this hit? Well, when guys like this are calling you out...
Had the league of denial made the right call in game 2 with Wilson’s hit to the head on Doumilin, Reese’s jaw would be in tact & he wouldn’t be suffering from a traumatic brain injury. He is now at risk for early on set #Alzheimers #dementia #parkinsons #tbi #cte @NHLPlayerSafety— Daniel Carcillo (@CarBombBoom13) May 2, 2018
The problem here isn’t a simple one. It’s not just that the rules in place leave too much wiggle room, grey areas that allow for players to be given a pass on hits meant to injure. And it’s not just the NHL that is to blame here, but it’s an issue where blame should be shared equally by the league’s officials, whose reluctance to toss players from playoff games is downright shocking at times, and the players themselves, who aren’t fighting for rule changes to protect themselves from the kind of long term effects these hits have. We need to see something happen in terms of compensation for players that suffer brain injuries from this game. The list continues to grow, and sadly some of them aren’t even alive to fight this battle. But until the NHLPA decides that the long term health and safety of their members is more important than the misguided machismo of laying out dudes by delivering headshots with armour-clad shoulders and elbows, this is going to continue to be a problem.
Sure, the DoPS will probably suspend Wilson. Let’s not kid ourselves though. The only reason there’s a hearing for this one is because of the nature of the injury. There’s a very real chance that Wilson gets a fine and no suspension. Whether they agree that Wilson was truly targeting the head, as some video angles seem to suggest, or the shoulder, which others do will end up being the deciding factor. I suppose the issue I can see with this is: If the justification for not suspending is that the hit that was shoulder to shoulder saw the motion carry through to the head, why is the player allowed to walk away without punishment? When you accidentally shoot the puck over the glass, you are penalized. Accidentally high-sticking an opponent gets you a trip to the box. Yet an action that can literally end the career of a player is given this kind of leeway? It’s not right and it needs to change, but given the NHL’s stance on CTE and the connection to these kinds of hits, you would be waiting a long time for such change to happen.
TAMPA BAY @ BOSTON- 7:00 EDT/4:00 PDT (CBC) (Series tied 1-1)
When you look at the underlying numbers, the Bruins are a bit lucky to have gotten the split in this one. In their game preview this morning, SBN’s Raw Charge highlighted how just 2 Bruins players (David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron) came out of the game with a CF% at 50%, and Noel Acciari was at 0%. You don’t need to be a stats geek to know that’s a bad night for a team, and their goalie likely stole a win there. A lot will hinge on the goaltenders, as Tuukka Rask, who was great in Game 1 fell apart on Monday, while Andrei Vasileskiy will need to follow up his strong Game 2 showing if the Bolts want to take the series lead. And if you haven’t had a chance, there’s a great post about a leaked email from the NHL re: Brad Marchand.
VEGAS @ SAN JOSE- 10:00 EDT/7:00 PDT (CBC) (Golden Knights lead series 2-1)
While both teams cruised to sweeps in their first round series, this one’s been a heck of a lot closer, and with the last 2 games being decided in OT, calling a winner in tonight would be best served with a coin toss. One thing the Sharks are going to have to do a few things differently if they want to head back to Vegas with the series tied. One thing is get some better play out of their Dmen, and yes the prime culprit is Brent Burns. The bearded wonder is a treat to watch defensively, but his play on the back end has been cringe-worthy in this series. They’re also going to need Martin Jones to steal a game for them the way Marc-Andre Fleury did in Game 3. The Sharks were the better team, but Vegas capitalized on mistakes the Sharks made. Capitalizing on their PP opportunities is a must, as getting just one goal in 11 opportunities is a recipe for disaster, especially when your opponent goes 2 for 9. The Sharks could get Joe Thornton back tonight, and that might give them an emotional lift that will carry them back to the desert tied at 2.