Another crazy night Friday in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A couple teams that went in as favorites are now down 2-0, the Department of Player Safety is going to have to decide whether or not to suspend this season’s regular season scoring leader, and a team coming off one of the greatest regular seasons of all time is in danger of being swept by the 8th seed. Sure, it sucks the Canucks are out of the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them. Let’s recap last night’s action starting in Tampa.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS 5 TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING 1 (Columbus leads 2-0)
Determined to show that their come from behind victory Wednesday night was no fluke, the Jackets came out and utterly dominated the Lightning last night, in a jaw-dropping 5-1 victory led by a 4 point performance from Matt Duchene and a Gordie Howe Hat Trick from Zach Werenski.
And then to the ugliness. Here’s the hit by Nikita Kucherov on Markus Nutivaara near the end of the game.
There were a lot of people who were comparing this hit to the one last year where Nazem Kadri drilled Tommy Wingels.
Kadri was given a 3 game suspension for that hit.
So, let’s go over the similarities first. They’re both a hit on an unsuspecting and vulnerable player. Both hits were 100% avoidable. Both came late in games that were out of reach. There is a difference here, and it’s context. Kadri hits Tommy Wingels after Wingels, already engaged with Zdeno Chara comes in and elbows Mitch Marner in the face. It’s not to justify the hit by Kadri in anyway, but the context is important here. He makes the hit because of the high hit. Kucherov’s hit was solely in frustration over the impending loss. In this light, it makes Kucherov’s hit worse than Kadri’s.
The other difference is Kadri is no stranger to the DoPS folks, where as Kucherov has a clean record. That is likely what is going to save him a severe punishment. What they should give him, taking into account that playoff games are worth more than regular season contests, is two games. My fear is that the DoPS will once again use the fact that Kucherov is a star and give him that special ‘Star Justice’ and merely give him a fine. With Game 3 set to go Sunday evening in Columbus we can expect a decision today.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS 3 PITTSBURGH PENGUINS 1 (New York leads 2-0)
After they needed overtime to settle Game 1 Wednesday, it felt like the Penguins were going to push back against the Islanders. I mean, this team has Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel after all. So who gets the scoring started, and gives the Penguins their first lead of the series? Yeah, exactly who you expected.
Sorry, but this is just funny. I mean, nothing he’s done can erase he’s been, no matter how you choose to look at it, one of the worst defencemen in the NHL. So Guddy truthers, enjoy your goal. Cherish it. Here’s the truth:
Pittsburgh won’t win another Cup as long as Erik Gudbranson is on their roster. You can’t overcome that. No one can.— Nucks Jerksconduct (@nucksmisconduct) April 13, 2019
And that good feeling whenever Gudbranson does something that somehow makes him look good, it never lasts. Watch him on this goal.
Eberle, Barzal, Beauvillier = GOAL Then the ruff stuff!! Islanders take a 2-0 lead in the series.@penguins 1 x @ny_islanders 3— The Upset (@theupset_) April 13, 2019
FOLLOW @theupset_#ny #nyc #Newyork #pittsburgh #pennsylvania #islanders #penguins #pittsburghpenguins #newyorkislanders #nhl #nhlplayoffs pic.twitter.com/c8XpIoF13v
And even better, the ‘sandpaper’ he was supposed to bring? That is some classic 1000 grit Gudbranson there. That was it for the Penguins, as the Islanders got goals from Jordan Eberle and Josh Bailey en route to the 3-1 victory and 2-0 series lead. They head to Pittsburgh for Game 3, and we should expect to see more fireworks after a near line brawl at the end of Game 2.
ST LOUIS BLUES 4 WINNIPEG JETS 3 (St Louis leads 2-0)
When we looked at this series, the NM staff were split, going either Jets in 6 or Blues in 7. So the Jets heading to St Louis after dropping a 2nd straight 1 goal game at home is not something anyone expected. Can Winnipeg turn this around? Sure, they’re getting scoring from their best players, and managed to get 3 on Jordan Binnington last night. But they’re going to need a hell of a lot more from Connor Hellebuyck than he’s shown so far or this one is going to be over quick and heads will definitely roll in The ‘Peg. And a shout out to @hildymac from St Louis game time for some impressive prognostication:
You sure as hell did.
VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 5 SAN JOSE SHARKS 3 (Series tied 1-1)
Not a surprise here, as this series is very likely to go the distance. A wild first period as the Golden Knights jumped out to an early 3 goal lead and that led the Sharks to pull Martin Jones in favour of Aaron Dell. The Sharks responded by scoring 3 goals in 2:11 at the tail end of the period. That was it for San Jose though, as Mark Stone scored the eventual game winner just 1:31 into the 2nd and William Karlsson scored a SHG in the 3rd to round out the scoring. Game 3 shifts to Vegas Sunday night.