Round one of the NHL’s weird and wacky playoffs came to a close on Friday night. Given all of the work that went in to make the league’s return-to-play format a reality and the sacrifices that many continue to make, I’m not feeling as reflective as I usually am at the end of a playoff round.
There’s not going to be a lot of time to think — less than 24 hours in fact — as the first game of the conference semi-finals starts tonight for fans of the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche.
- Outshot 33-17, the Philadelphia Flyers relied on the future of Canadian goaltending in Carter Hart as the 22-year-old netminder outshone his predecessor Carey Price to lead his team to victory.
- Despite their 31-31-9 record, the Habs likely deserved a better fate against the Eastern Conference’s top seed. As you can see in the charts below, Montréal’s defence-by-committee with unsung heroes Brett Kulak and Ben Chariot did a fabulous job of keeping Philadelphia’s dangerous offence from penetrating the most dangerous areas of the ice.
- Meanwhile, 21-year-old Nick Suzuki — who scored both goals last night — and the Canadiens really put the peddle to the meddle against Carter Hart all series. While they were successful in pulling off two wins, the reality is that outside of the 5-0 drubbing in Game 2, Hart was more than up to the task, with back-to-back shutouts in games three and four to give the Flyers a commanding lead.
5v5 shot rates for PHI - MTL. Flyers got the better goaltending, a little bit. pic.twitter.com/bZpf7jhyad— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) August 22, 2020
- The most surprising series of the first-round, the upstart Canucks vanquished the defending Champions with a 6-2 drubbing — overwhelming Jordan Binnington in all three games the second-year netminder started this series. Binnington, the Calder Trophy runner-up to Elias Pettersson last year, finished with a 0.800 save-percentage in the series. Pettersson meanwhile, is tied for the playoff scoring lead with Nathan MacKinnon.
- Depth forward Tyler Motte double-dipped for the Canucks, while
Travis YostJaden Schwartz did the same for the Blues. Vancouver’s lack of quality depth really hurt them in the shot metrics table you’ll see below, especially as compared to the deep Blues, but poor goaltending have sunk stronger ships than Craig Berube’s St. Louis squad.
- It’ll be interesting to see how the results of this series effects two of the league’s most prominent unrestricted free agents this year in goaltender Jakob Markstrom and defenceman Alex Pietrangelo.
- Ultimately, it’s hard to watch the play of players like Pettersson, Hughes, Boeser, and the aforementioned Suzuki and not think about how D.J. Smith should really give Ottawa’s young talent extended, full-time NHL minutes next season.
5v5 shot rates for VAN - STL. Markström was tremendous, especially early in the series, Binnington fell apart late. pic.twitter.com/L8t1ZY2MKb— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) August 22, 2020
JORDAN BINNINGTON 2020 COLLAPSE VS VANCOUVER: THE MOVIE pic.twitter.com/pZnuoMvTZe— Mr Booth (@MrBooth_7) August 22, 2020
- It’s going to be fun to watch John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen against Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen for a full series.
What I’m watching:
Instead of the on-ice play, my attention — and the attention of many others — are on NBC and what they decide to do with Mike Milbury, the former Islanders general manager you might remember as the person who was fleeced in the deal that brought Jason Spezza and Zdeno Chara to Ottawa almost two decades ago. Well, Milbury is still kicking around in the hockey world as an on-air analyst for NBC Sports since 2008.
In the midst of making an insensitive comment that minimized the sacrifices that many players are making in the NHL bubble, Milbury one-upped himself by disparaging women with the often held belief that they’re a “distraction”.
If you think people are making “too big a deal” of a “comment like that”, I ask you to open yourself up to the possibility that the public outcry about the comments yesterday symbolize real pain for many people and represent more than just the words that were expressed. An off-the-cuff comment like the one Milbury made reflects a belief about women and the values he might have. We can decide whether we want those values to be the ones we want reflected in a position as high-profile as his.
If you’d like to learn more about this, there are many women who have put in work they shouldn’t have to in order to shed light on their experiences and offer their opinion on the subject:
- If you have a subscription to The Athletic, Katie Strang’s piece on the topic is excellent:
I don’t even want to spend too much time dissecting Milbury’s comments, because I’m loath to dignify his opinions or amplify his message. On Friday afternoon, the league denounced them as “insulting” and “insensitive.” But you can tell a lot from what people say when they feel they can speak with impunity. The way he spoke about women being distractions is pretty coded language for what he feels women are good for, and that’s abhorrent.
Think about how insulting and insidious those comments are. Does Milbury not understand how many women probably were integral in making sure this whole bubble hockey experiment works? From the league? The NHLPA? The NHL clubs? His own broadcast? There are women doing advance scouting and using data analysis to ensure their teams are prepared to play. There are women working to handle every logistical nightmare within this bizarre environment and every awkward Zoom press conference we see. There are likely women gathering, distilling and providing him with the very information he uses each broadcast!
- Hemal Jhaveri’s piece for USAToday reminds us that this is a consistent pattern when it comes to Milbury’s behaviour:
This isn’t even the first time this playoffs that Milbury has pushed tiresome narratives around the sport. He lambasted Tuukka Rask for leaving the Boston Burins to be with his family, he offhandedly thought Jake Muzzin might be staying down longer just for a whistle, before a stretcher was brought out to take him off the ice and when talking about the empty arenas in the NHL bubble, he compared them to beer leagues or “NCAA women’s hockey.”
Even as stuck as NHL culture seems sometimes, it has evolved past the likes of Milbury’s comments and his old school take on the sport. Sexism, racism, homophobia all exist within hockey, but there are many working to turn the culture around. Why then would NBC give such a prominent role to someone who is hopelessly committed to keeping it stuck in the past? Anson Carter, Patrick Sharp, or this fantastically long list of women in hockey would all be better choices.
- Prefer audio? Emily Kaplan was on Sportsnet650 in Vancouver to share her thoughts on why Milbury’s comments make her feel unwelcome in the sport:
Today on #CanucksCentral with @ScottRintoul and @Bik650, @emilymkaplan was asked for her thoughts on Mike Milbury's insulting comments towards women during a recent broadcast. pic.twitter.com/ACuVmjBErV— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) August 21, 2020
As we’ve seen with the recent, overtly homophobic comments from Cincinnati Reds play-by-play commentator Thom Brennaman, Milbury exists in a complicit culture in sports and sports media that allow for harmful stereotypes of people because of their gender or sexual orientation to spread.
The ways in which we react and respond to these instances matter, because for every opinion someone feels comfortable airing publicly, there are thousands more that we never hear, and contribute to making the sport we love inaccessible for other human beings.
When I say that men in the realm of sports media need to be better, I’m challenging you to open up your conversations — particularly if you have a sports talk radio show.— Ian Mendes (@ian_mendes) August 21, 2020
You have a unique platform and a stage.
Don’t use it as an echo chamber.