Last night was a black eye for the NHL in regards to game 7 between the Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks. You can't ask for anything better than a game 7 overtime thriller but the events that led to all of the excitement came down to one of the worst officiating decisions in NHL history. The major penalty and misconduct assessed to Golden Knights forward Cody Eakin for crosschecking Joe Pavelski of the Sharks after the face-off at the 9:13 mark of the 3rd period giving the Sharks a 5 minute power play was flat out the wrong call. It should have been no more than a 2 minute minor or a maximum of a double minor. Many others on social media who were mostly neutral observers thought there should have been no penalty at all. Eakin definitely cross checked him after the face off which caused Pavelski to lose his balance while at the same time colliding with Paul Stastny of the Golden Knights and landing on the side of his head. The force of the collision knocked Pavelski out leaving him strewn on the ice bleeding. Both referees NEVER raised their hands indicating it was a penalty and it is debatable whether either of them even saw the play. Since they could not review the penalty the severity of the injury convinced the officials to assess the 5 minute major. At the time of the penalty the Golden Knights were in complete control winning 3-0. With the 5 minute penalty the Sharks scored an incredible four goals to take the lead and win in OT. How can the referees who didn't see the play assess a major penalty? Why is there no rule in place to have any major penalty reviewed in the playoffs? In 2019 we arguably had the worst referee non-call decision in NFL history during the Rams-Saints NFC championship game and now the NHL puts their hat in the ring with an equally horrible decision. The NHL playoffs have been phenomenal so lets hope they can remain controversy free the rest of the way. And no Bennett Salvatore did not switch careers and ref the game last night.............
Here are the other 2 previews of the conference semi-finals
Positives for Colorado They arguably have the most dangerous scoring line left in the playoffs with Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog who combined for 9 goals and 12 assists in the 1st round against the Calgary Flames. Goaltender Phillip Grubauer who carried the Avalanche in the last part of the regular season gave up only 10 goals in the 5 games against the Flames. The Avalanche will be a well rested team having 7 days off before game 1 in San Jose especially helping Rantanen and Landeskog who were both banged up at the end of the regular season. The Avalanche are playing with house money being the #8 seed so there is no pressure on this team so they will continue to play at their fast paced style and put the pressure on their opponents.
Negatives for Colorado The Sharks won all 3 games in the regular season scoring 14 goals and are the more experienced and playoff battled tested team. The Avalanche were ranked 25th in penalty kills during the regular season and the Sharks power play unit ranked 6th overall. Conversely having the 7 days off might kill some of the momentum they had after dominating the Flames in the 1st round. The Avalanche don't have the blue line presence and offensive threats like the Sharks.
Positives for San Jose The Sharks tied for the 2nd most goals scored during the regular season and got huge goal scoring performances in the 1st round from Logan Couture and Thomas Hertl with 6 each against Vegas. They have two of the most dominating skilled defensemen in Brent Burns and a healthy Erik Karlsson who have combined for 12 assists so far in the playoffs. Many of these players have been through the playoff wars and know how to handle the pressure of the playoffs.
Negatives for San Jose Not sure what the status will be for Joe Pavelski but he will be missed if not on ice scoring 2 goals so far in the playoffs and had 38 during the regular season. Martin Jones in goal has had a very erratic season typified by his playoff run. He got pulled in games 2 & 3 but did bounce back big in games 5 & 6 saving 88 of 91 shots but which Jones you get against an Avalanche team that averaged 41 shots on net in the 1st round is the big question. The Sharks just completed a grueling, emotional seven game series against Vegas including the last 2 games going into overtime and are facing a well rested Avalanche squad.
I like all of the positives with Colorado going into this series with their offensive fire power, Grubauer in net, and being a well rested squad.
Avalanche in 6 games
Positives for the NY Islanders The Islanders dominated the Pittsburgh Penguins sweeping the series and only trailing for only about 5 minutes for the entire series. Goaltender Robin Lehner gave up only 6 goals in the 4 games with a save percentage of .956. The Islanders gave up the least number of goals during the regular season and Barry Trotz won the Stanley Cup as coach of the Capitols last year. They are well rested having 10 days off before their first playoff game in the 2nd round. The Islanders won the regular season series 3-1 against the Hurricanes and only gave up 7 goals in those games.
Negatives for the NY Islanders They have gotten good contributions from Josh Bailey, Brock Nelson, and Jordan Eberle in the playoffs combining for 10 goals but the Islanders don't have any real tip of the spear goal scorer and were 22nd in the league during the regular season in goals per game. Their power play was ranked 29th during the regular season while the Hurricanes had the 8th best penalty killing unit during the regular season. They will have home ice but not quite the raucous crowd they had at the Nassau Coliseum as they will be moving their home games to the Barclays Center for the 2nd round. Conversely for the Islanders having 10 days off might bring out the rust factor and might kill all the momentum they had after winning in the 1st round.
Positives for Carolina The Hurricanes are not a flashy team but have good goal scoring depth with 12 different Hurricanes scoring 10+ goals during the regular season. Jordan Staal missed about 40% of the regular season but has been a huge presence in the playoffs scoring 3 goals and also Warren Foegele has emerged in the playoffs with 4 goals. They are 2nd overall in giving up the least amount of shots on goal for the playoffs and have not lost at home during the playoffs. Two Hurricanes defenders have been big offensive producers in the playoffs as Dougie Hamilton has scored 3 goals with 3 assists and Jacob Slavin has chipped in with 9 assists including 3 tonight in game 7.
Negatives for Carolina Goaltender Petr Mrazek has just been average during the playoffs and is the only playoff goalie with a save percentage under .900 who is still playing. A tough 7 game series capped off by a game 7 double OT win against the Washington Capitols and now having to play a well rested Islander squad starting out on the road. They have the lowest rated power play for all of the teams left in the playoffs and the San Jose Sharks are the only team worse than the Hurricanes in penalty kills.
I like the Islanders for the following reasons: Well rested, hot goaltending, and a team that is perfectly built for the playoffs with arguably the best coach behind the bench in Barry Trotz.
Islanders in 6 games