Hockey NHL Playoffs

NHL Opening Weekend: The Good, Bad and Spicy

I don’t think it can be emphasized enough how great it is to have live sports back. The NHL’s opening weekend did not disappoint, the Hurricanes and Rangers got things going quick, even tossing the mitts around early in the first. There was a lot that went down in the collective Game 1’s across the league, most of it good, some controversial so let’s dive into it.

THE GOOD

Matt Dumba

Back in June, in the heat of the George Floyd aftermath, a group of NHL players got together to make a change in the sport of hockey. Headed by Akim Aliu and Evander Kane the Hockey Diversity Alliance (HDA) was formed. The HDA’s executive committee is made up of Trevor Daley, Wayne Simmonds, Chris Stewart, Joel Ward and more specifically for this write up, Matt Dumba. Before the Oilers and Blackhawks game Matt Dumba stood in front of the camera and delivered a speech that he wrote himself and memorized. I will let the video speak for itself.

Upsets

Who doesn’t love a good upset, and after just two days of hockey we have a couple of teams surprisingly leading their series. On Sunday every single underdog in terms of seeding won, including the round robin games, however the 12 seeds stole the show. I eluded to the changing of the guard in the Blackhawks/Oilers preview and I guess Chicago isn’t ready to let go. The Canadiens played a near perfect game, the way they need to play if they are going to win. Carey stood on his head and they hit Crosby and Malkin every chance they got (maybe a little too much).

Dominik Kubalik

He must not have liked my throw in Calder nomination comment because boy did he have a day in Game 1. Kubalik put up five points (2G 3A) on Saturday, setting the NHL record for the most points in player’s playoff debut. Dating back to their Stanley Cup run days of the early 2010’s, the Blackhawks seem to always have a player that emerges in the playoffs. Is Kubalik the next coming to lead the Hawks to the cup like Byfuglien or Bickell? I love Chelsea Dagger so please keep it up.

THE BAD

Penalty Shots

Don’t get me wrong I love penalty shots, but to see two, let alone one in a ‘playoff’ game is odd to say the least. There have been three previous instances of penalty shots in the playoffs and Jaromir Jagr played in all three games. Fun fact aside I didn’t think either deserved to be a penalty shot and Drouin’s was clearly a make up call but I sincerely hope this was an anomaly. It was a moot point because both failed to hit the net which is probably a good thing because that Habs didn’t need to win that way.

Altitude/Comcast Dispute

It’s hard to find a lot of negatives in the first weekend back of hockey when every team was whole and healthy for the most part. Getting to watch our favourite players or teams back on the ice is a welcome sign. Unless you are an Avalanche fan living in Colorado. Comcast and Dish, the two largest TV service provider’s in the state of Denver have blacked out Avalanche and Nugget games this year. The two service prodiver giants are at odds with Altitude Sports and Entertainment which is the regional sports network own by the Kroenke family (owners of the Avs and Nuggets). This pissing contest is depriving fans living in Colorado from seeing their hometown team play in a year where they have Stanley Cup aspirations. If this were a thing in Montreal there would probably be legit riots. This needs to be figured out because the Avalanche are one hell of a team and this a disservice to the good people of Colorado and the sport of hockey.

THE SPICY

Matthew Tkachuck

This should come as no surprise as this story line dominated a lot of the airwaves after it happened. Tkachuk is a polarizing player but I think it is fair to say if he is on your team you would love him, if he isn’t you hate him. That is part of what makes him such a great player and flirting with the line is part of his game in good time and bad. I will first say that no, I do not think that Tkachuk meant to kick or step on Scheifele’s leg nor have I spent the time slowing down or watching this replay to no end. I saw it in real time and I thought then what I think now, Tkachuk was fully committed to hitting Scheifele and hurting him but never to injure.

What I mean by that is that Tkachuk saw an opportunity to lay a hit on one of the Jets’ best players and he was taking it no matter what. This is standard in hockey, any one who has played contact hockey that likes to hit has done the exact same thing. The speed at which the game is played also cannot be ignored, slowing things down frame by frame is not a fair evaluation. That needed to be said but getting back to Tkachuk, he overshot Scheifele taking a bad path to finish his check. Scheifele knew this which is why he pulled back for the dump in and I think before Tkachuk could even think or stop himself, he tried to turn in order to finish his check which is why his blade came up and went into the back of Scheifele’s leg.

I’m not here to pretend to be judge, jury or executioner but that’s how I saw it and I tend to believe that if you truly respect that game of hockey, you will never go out there to injure a fellow player. Hurt? For sure, every single time you hit an opposing player you hit to hurt but to injure? Never, but maybe I’m naive. Blake Wheeler’s reaction was exactly what I expected. Paul Maurice’s reaction was exactly what I expected. Tkachuk and Ward’s reactions as well but Tkachuk wasted little time spicing things up in this all Canadian series.

Today’s action is already underway with the Hurricanes leading the Rangers 3-1 in the second (my prediction is off to a rough start). Game 2 of the aforementioned Spicy matchup between the Flames and Jets goes at 2:30 followed by Washington vs Tampa, Dallas vs Vegas and finally the Habs vs Pens wrap up Day 3.

Tricolore jusqu’au bout!

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