Something that I wanted to touch on before I wrote up last night’s games is how good the hockey has been for the most part since the NHL resumed play in the Toronto and Edmonton bubbles. After such a long and unprecedented lay-off, it would have been totally unsurprising if the players were unable to deliver the kind of quality performance we’ve come to expect in the play-offs. Instead, the calibre of play has been just as good if not better. There are far too many factors at play to truly know what might be causing this change, but if I had to venture a guess it’s that with four months to recover we are seeing the best players in the world at something approaching full health. The NHL season is a long, hard grind and oftentimes the team that wins out is the team that can just keep everyone standing. It’s been refreshing to watch teams with mostly full rosters rip around the ice with abandon. If there was ever an argument for shortening the league’s season, and allowing more time between games for the players to recover, what we’ve witnessed here might just be it.
Tuesday Night’s Games:
- This series was billed by many as the best of the second round and boy has it ever lived up to expectations so far. The quality of play between these two titans was at an all-time high last night. Tampa are a deeper team, but Boston’s stars give them a punching chance against anyone. The Lightning had to overcome a fair amount of adversity to prevail in this one: first, they had an equalizer waved off on a coach’s challenge after the Bruins had taken an early lead on a goal by Nick Ritchie. I’ll leave it to the viewer as to whether it was an inch off-side or not but I will say that this is not the type of call that the challenge was really intended for. Later, Boston would equalize with less than five minutes left to force overtime in a game that Tampa probably thought they’d already deserved to win. Ondrej Palat did rescue the Bolts in OT, and we’re all square at one piece. I can’t say I have a rooting interest here other than to see this series go the full seven games: these teams are that good. And if you don’t want to take it from me, just check out these highlights:
- If the Boston-Tampa match-up could be described as a clash of the titans, the Canucks-Golden Knights pairing is a bit more like David and Goliath; Vegas is clearly the better team, but Vancouver has a slingshot or two that might just let them hang around longer than some people expected. Quinn Hughes has, deservedly, garnered a lot of the headlines but it says here that Elias Pettersson is still the best, and most important player for the Canucks. If fans weren’t already aware of his abilities, Tuesday night’s three points virtuoso effort should welcome them to the party. When Pettersson was on the ice, Vancouver more than held its own. When Pettersson was not on the ice, the Canucks were out-attempted by a staggering 52-21. Yes, the Golden Knights were chasing a game they never lead but no team plans on being so thoroughly out-chanced. As our own Brandon Maki explained:
I’m still not sure Vancouver will be able to make things more competitive than this, but they’ve got the top-end talent to at least make it interesting from time to time; and if one or more of their stars go off, then maybe we’ll be in for a longer series than expected.
Tampa Bay Lightning @ Boston Bruins, 8pm ET, Series Tied 1-1