Aside from diving, the most avoidable penalty in hockey might just be too many men on the ice. Dan Pollard of NHL.com speculates on why, by his count, there have been an unreal 25 instances of the penalty so far this season.
What’s happening here? I guess you look at scoring chances in the second period and figure players are eager to jump into the play. Line matchups certainly can create confusion on the bench. As players are matched and their opposite line switches up or jumps back over the boards, players can jump early. Situational reads can also quickly change the best-laid plans.
Chicago’s Ben Eager became “too many men on the ice” victim No. 25 Monday when he turned away from the bench to play the puck against the Canucks. Eager was lucky the Canucks came up empty on the power play. It’s not always easy to lay blame, but this was a clear cut case of Ben being too Eager.
The chicken or the egg argument came up in Game 5 of the Caps’ first-round series with Montreal when Semyon Varlamov made a dash to the bench before quickly retreating back to his net. Was it Varlamov’s fault for turning back when he saw the play heading up ice or was it his teammates for not accessing the play and jumping too early?
To me, a net-emptying situation might the most acceptable instance. Particularly if the opposing team gains control of the puck before a goalie can get all the way across the ice, forcing the netminder to hesitate to get to the bench (or even need to make a save).
There have been a few times already in which a team’s self-inflicted wound was “fatal.” Pollard points out two.
Two teams have paid the ultimate penalty for having an extra jersey on the ice in overtime this playoff season. In the first round, Anze Kopitar scored with the man advantage for L.A. in OT of Game 2 against Vancouver, and Miroslav Satan scored the game winner in the second overtime for Boston in Game 4 against Buffalo.
There were also a couple cases in which a last minute penalty stemmed the comeback tide for teams. Both the Red Wings and Capitals only earned a 5-on-5 after emptying their nets thanks to Too Many Men on the Ice penalties.
Perhaps the increasing speed and competitiveness of these playoff games makes such infractions unavoidable? Are zebras focusing on calling the penalty more often than before? Either way, I wouldn’t be surprised if the violation costs another team a big game before the playoffs are over.
Bryan Rust is really having himself a series.
After opening the scoring in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, Rust took matters into his own hands after Jonathan Drouin evened the score for Tampa Bay, notching his second goal of the game — just 30 seconds after Drouin scored — to put Pittsburgh back out in front, 2-1.
Before digging into the Rust goal (posted above), let’s take a moment to appreciate Drouin’s snipe, one that whizzed by Pittsburgh netminder Matt Murray:
Now, back to Rust.
With that second goal he’s now racked up eight points for the playoffs, just three back of the 11 he put up over the course of the entire regular season. The former Notre Dame standout has become a major storyline, and now sits tied with Patric Hornqvist for the team lead in even-strength playoff goals.
Not bad for a guy that spent a fair chunk of the year in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, eh?
What an Eastern Conference Final for Bryan Rust.
Rust scored his second goal of the series — and third point in as many games — to open the scoring on Friday night, giving the Penguins a 1-0 lead over the Lighting at Consol.
After scoring just 11 points during the regular season, Rust — in just his second season at the NHL level — now has seven points in 16 playoff games, and has emerged as a vital bottom-six contributor in the process.
Chris Kunitz and Evgeni Malkin notched assists on Rust’s goal, which came early in the second period. The Pens out-shot the Bolts 8-5 in the first period, but were unable to get one past Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Oh, and speaking of Kunitz, he’s also produced extremely well in this series — he now has six points in his last five games.
As if Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final couldn’t get any more dramatic, it has — Tampa Bay captain Steve Stamkos, who hasn’t played since Mar. 31, will make his playoff debut against the Penguins tonight.
Stamkos underwent vascular surgery in early April to correct a blood clotting issue, and has remained on blood thinners ever since. While there’s been no confirmation he’s off medication, he did tell Sportsnet he’d be able to return to the lineup once he was.
Stamkos reiterated that he’s still on the same prescription of blood thinners he was given earlier this month. He takes a 12-hour dosage, twice a day, and it has been suggested to him that once he is cleared to stop taking the medication, Stamkos conceivably could return to the Lightning lineup almost immediately.
That’s why I’m trying to stay in shape,” he said.
Per NHL.com, Stamkos took the warmup and participated in line rushes centering Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan.
It’s been exactly eight weeks since Stamkos played his last game. At the time of his diagnosis, the Lightning said his timetable for recovery was 1-3 months.
To say his return will be a boost is a major understatement. Aside from the emotional factor, Stamkos led the Bolts in goals this year, with 36, and would presumably spark a power play that’s gone just 2-for-12 in the series.
Steve Stamkos took the team bus to tonight’s Eastern Conference Game 7 in Pittsburgh. As TVA noted, it was the first time he’s arrived early for a game in these playoffs.
In his pregame presser, Bolts head coach Jon Cooper refused to answer any questions about Stamkos’ availability.
And then Stamkos took the warmup.
As such, the drama surrounding Tampa Bay’s captain has reached an all-time high. Stamkos, who’s been out of the lineup since early April due to blood clots, looks as though he’s on the verge of an emotional comeback as the Lightning try to win an ECF Game 7 — on the road — for a second consecutive season.
“If Stamkos is in the lineup, it’s our best foot forward,” Cooper said. “If he’s not in the lineup, it’s because he wasn’t eligible to play.”
No word if No. 91 is still on the blood thinning medication he’s been taking since undergoing vascular surgery on Apr. 4.