The Stanley Cup playoffs continue without the Vegas Golden Knights and it’s extremely likely NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has shrugged his shoulders figuring it’s time to get on with life.
For as long as Zambonis roll, that will never be the case in Las Vegas. The city doesn’t think its team was screwed last week. It knows it was. The NHL admitted so much by apologizing for the horrific call that led to the third-period, five-minute major penalty against the Golden Knights and the eventual rally by the San Jose Sharks in Game 7.
And what the Golden Knights don’t deserve right now is some smart ass Sharks defenseman making light of the situation during their second round series against Colorado. But more about that in second.
In case you hadn’t heard, the Golden Knights were leading 3-0 with under 11 minutes to play when a cross checking penalty was accelerated to a major and game misconduct on Cody Eakin once Sharks captain Joe Pavelski was left bloodied on the ice.
The Sharks scored four goals during the power play, which set the stage for a 5-4 overtime win and their advancement.
The problem wasn’t the cross check. That was obvious. The problem was the hit merely sent Pavelski stumbling into another Vegas player before falling to the ice. Eakin’s stick never made contact with Pavelski’s neck or head. What should have resulted was a simple two-minute minor.
“The league did reach out and apologize,” general manager George McPhee said.
McPhee was thankful for the apology and promised the Golden Knights won’t lose any more sleep over it.
“But with respect to this organization, there will be no pity parties. We’re not feeling sorry for ourselves,” McNabb said. “Stuff happens in games. We’re going to take the rearview mirror out and move forward and put a real good team on the ice next year. We’re not going to carry around a big suitcase full of yesterdays. That’s not going to happen,” he said.
Now it seems one Sharks player has decided to belittle the Golden Knights with his own special brand of sarcasm.
On Sunday, an obvious icing call against the Colorado Avalanche was not called during Game 2 of their series against the Sharks. And wouldn’t you know it, the call ended up giving the Avalanche an opportunity to score a big goal in their 4-3 win over the Sharks.
“I’ll take the high road and wait for the league’s apology tomorrow,” Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic said after the game.
Sure buddy. Why don’t you do that.
With the game tied 1-1 in the second period, Vlasic and Mikko Rantanen charged after a puck that would have normally resulted in an icing against Colorado. But the officials didn’t whistle the play down, believing Rantanen had done enough to cancel the icing. Meanwhile, the Sharks pulled back assumed icing was coming. Bad mistake.
That led to a shot from Gabriel Landeskog which Sharks goalie Martin Jones stopped. Jones wasn’t as lucky on the rebound. Defenseman Tyson Barrie scored and Colorado never trailed again.
Sharks coach Peter DeBoer admitted it was clear his players believed there should have been a whistle. But he also admitted it didn’t excuse what followed.
“Whether or not I thought it was doesn’t matter,” he said. “Our players did. They let up. They relaxed for a minute, and it obviously wasn’t. So the lesson in that was don’t assume anything in the playoffs. Play and make sure.”
While nothing can be done to erase a discretionary icing call, McPhee was asked last week if the Golden Knights would favor a rule change allowing major penalty calls to be reviewed by the NHL situation room or by the supervisor of officials on-site at games.
“I think that’s for the league to determine, if they want to do anything additional. I haven’t thought it through enough,” he said. “You worry about that call that’s coming. And it came, and it was unfortunate for us,” McPhee said. “We played hard, we did our best. It didn’t work out.”
What did result was the referees that worked the Sharks-Golden Knights game, Dan O’Halloran and Eric Furlatt, were not assigned a second-round series. O’Halloran leads all active referees in playoff games officiated (212). If the ban is sustained moving forward, O’Halloran will miss his first conference final in over a decade.
“I’m sure they’re gonna feel like I am, sick in the pit of my stomach. We’ve all been there,” retired referee Kerry Fraser told The Athletic.
Maybe someday Vlasic will have that feeling, too. And then it won’t be so funny.