It plays across your screens from September through February, week after week, as the NFL goes overboard protecting its quarterbacks from being in harm’s way. It might offend the sensibilities of some old-timers who grew up with Lawrence Taylor, or maybe Ben Davidson before that, but it represents good business. The NFL is protecting its greatest assets. It is difficult to sell matchups between second- and third-stringers.
So that served as the indirect reason I was in agreement with the overseers in Toronto nullifying Filip Chytil’s apparent go-ahead goal with 3:10 remaining in the third period of Game 1 against the Penguins after Kaapo Kakko’s power move to the net wiped out Pittsburgh goaltender Casey DeSmith.
It did not seem premeditated, and it was not a play with malicious intent even if Kakko’s path to the net probably would have created contact even if he hadn’t been nudged or partially guided by Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin. It was a coin-flip type of call that most certainly has gone the other way multiple times across the season.
But I felt the decision, made following Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan’s challenge, was a judicious one in the context of protecting goaltenders from harm’s way. I believe in erring on the side of caution when it comes to protecting some of the league’s prime assets, certainly at this time of year.
Apparently, I was giving the NHL too much credit. For one night later, there was the Bruins’ David Pastrnak recklessly taking out the Hurricanes’ snakebitten Antti Raanta at Carolina. And given Raanta’s lengthy string of ailments it is a surprise that the Finn was not actually bitten by a snake during his tenure while with Arizona. Be that as it may, Pastrnak got his two minutes and Raanta was done for Game 2 before the 10:00 mark of the first period.
Then, within the first minute of Game 2 at Madison Square Garden, the officials looked on, even perhaps approvingly, when Pittsburgh’s Evan Rodrigues went into the crease to trip Igor Shesterkin. The band played on.
DeSmith, the backup who became the Penguins’ starter when No. 1 Tristan Jarry went down late in the regular season with a broken foot, left Game 1 with a core injury that required surgery. Now the Penguins are down to third-string goaltender Louis Domingue. Carolina is using a third-stringer following the injury to Raanta that followed a late-season injury to starter Frederik Andersen. That’s not what you want.
There is nothing wrong with a league going a bit overboard in protecting its greatest assets, but there is something radically wrong with a league failing to protect them on the sport’s greatest stage. The league needs to institute a crackdown. These players are so smart, it is easy to disguise intentions. A two-minute minor is not a fair trade-off for taking a goaltender out of the lineup. The crease is there for a reason.
Maybe the NHL could learn something from the NFL. Maybe just this one time?
Apparently, since the NHLPA can’t beat the NHL when it comes to collective bargaining, it is going to try and become the NHL.
Slap Shots has been told the administration is preparing a regulation to present to the executive board of 32 player representatives that would give the union power to discipline agents who publicly criticize the NHLPA during collective bargaining. The range of discipline would likely range from fines through suspensions to, in the most extreme case, decertification.
That comes about two decades after the NHL Board of Governors gave Gary Bettman the power to fine owners and club officials up to $1 million for speaking publicly about labor negotiations.
To beat them, the union is trying to become them.
Wonderful. Good luck with that.
Here’s one that will merit review if the trend persists. Through the first 20 playoff games, winners outscored losers by a margin of 3.15 goals per game, with the average score 4.6-1.45. Winning teams have scored at least five goals 12 times, while losing clubs have scored one or fewer in eight contests. Teams do pull their netminders earlier than ever, and that has had a minor effect, but nearly half of the week’s game (nine) featured blowouts of four goals or more.
Odd and less than compelling.
So the Devils conducted a soul-searching and thorough review of the organization and appear to have to come to the conclusion that assistant coaches Alain Nasreddine and Mark Recchi were the problem and thus had to go.
That kind of reminds me of when the Devils missed the 1996 playoffs as defending Stanley Cup champions and decided to dismiss PA announcer Bob Arsena after the season ended.
With the Oilers winning consecutive games 6-0 and 8-2, I had to check and see whether Orval Tessier was behind the other team’s bench. (You could look it up.)
I don’t know of many NHL players who have defied the aging curve like David Perron, the 33-year-old St. Louis winger who has become more productive the second half of his career, and without suddenly joining Sidney Crosby as a latter-day Rob Brown.
Perron recorded 141 goals, 191 assists and 332 points in 570 games over the first eight years of his career, which commenced as a 19-year-old with the Blues in 2007. That amounts to .25 goals-per-game, .33 assists per and .58 points per.
But beginning with the 2016-17 season, Perron has recorded 128 goals, 205 assists and 333 points in 403 games. That computes to significant per-game increases of .32 GPG, .51 APG and .83 PPG.
A rare one indeed.
Finally, I have figured it out. Turner Sports couldn’t find a qualified individual to take the job as “rules/officiating expert” on its national telecasts, so the network hired Don Koharski instead.