NHL Playoff Intensity Grows and Grows

Winnipeg looks to get back on track. Parise talks about next year. Jordan Staal should win this award.

Superficially, at least, it appeared that the Montreal-Winnipeg series would be sort of a relaxing battle between two rather pleasant hockey teams.

Or, so it seemed to me. 

Instead the Mark Scheifele hit on Jake Evans a second after the Montrealer scored an open net goal has caused an eruption that's hard to define. 

The best I can do is describe it as that it’s a result of playoff intensity.

Long after the videos went viral, I still could not even be sure whether that's the proper term.

Not that after the videos went viral, I could not find a tilt one way or another.

One respected, level-headed former player took Scheifele's side -- right side, that is -- of the issue and exonerated the Jets player.

A friend, who has watched hockey for decades, said Scheifele should be suspended for life.

TSN's Craig Button, a veteran of the hockey scene described the hit as "vicious" and "dangerous."

And if The Maven sounds as if he doesn't know what to make of it, that is right. Frankly, I'm confused other than to return to my explanation -- call it a crutch -- that this anxious episode is part of playoff intensity.

If nothing else, I'm going to be carefully studying the league's reaction because The Commissioner, The Deputy Commissioner and the Department of Player Safety want to do the right thing.

I respect them completely but, in this case, I don't envy them.

If nothing else, we certainly can agree on one thing -- these playoffs are intense.

Stan’s Java Jive


JAVA JIVE: As I noted above, this was a tough-tough decision. The four-game call was done after intense scrutiny by Player Safety. The"Charging" penalty partly was based on "distance traveled" among other factors. Personally, I agree with the suspension. The injury to Montreal's Jake Evans could sideline him for the rest of the playoffs, which is sad. Not surprisingly, the Jets do not agree with the NHL's decision. "You need to do everything to stop a goal," counters Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice. "It's part of the game. It was a heavy hit -- but clean." (After considerable investigation, the league thought otherwise. Plus, I agree with TSN's Craig Button who puts it sensibly: "Hits like that are wrong and don't belong in the game." Ditto, Sportsnet's Eric Engels who adds, "The suspension should hopefully deter similar plays in the future." Case closed!)


JAVA JIVE: The good news is that g.m. Bill Guerin wants his vet back next season and Parise wants back. Zach proved in the playoffs that he's still got the goods. He may not be a first-liner anymore but he certainly can be an asset on the ice; not the press box. Whatever differences he had with coach Dean Evason -- assuming that there were -- should be resolved before training camp. 


JAVA JIVE: As I warned the other day, I expected the Canes to rebound and they did last night with the OT win over defending champion Tampa Bay. Coach Rod Brind'Amour gambled on goalie Peter Mrazek and Pistol Pete delivered. But the real NHL Forgotten MVP is Canes captain Jordan Staal who produced the winner via Sibby Aho. Over and over again, Staal makes that "C" on his jersey mean "Complete Hockey Player." No way, Jordy ever will win a Hart Trophy, but in Raleigh he always wins the Heart Trophy.


THE JIVE: If Toronto owner Larry Tanenbaum feels secure in the knowledge that Kyle Dubas and Sheldon Keefe should remain in their respective positions, I'm cool with that. Fine and dandy.

Let's face it, Tanenbaum is top man on the Maple Leaf totem pole. It's his dough that pays off Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and their ilk. If Larry believes that the current general staff can do right by this team, well, it's his cash and that's all there is to it.

This much is certain; despite the first round debacle I sincerely doubt that a single ticket-holder will give up his or her seat at Scotiabank Arena. 

For whatever their faults, the Maple Leafs remain a compelling story -- a running melodrama if you will -- and Leafs Nation will remain faithful to its team. 

With ratings guaranteed to remain high and tickets as usual at a premium, Tanenbaum's decision to stay with the status quo makes sense. That, however, will change dramatically if, for some reason, Larry's team stumbles from the gate.

Don't laugh; that could happen if Dubas doesn't hurry up and secures a first-rate goaltender -- or two.


THE JIVE: Confession. I once tried to referee an ice hockey game at Sky Rink in Manhattan. When it was over, I vowed that I never would don the striped shirt again. 

The lesson I learned is one that you've heard over and over again; officiating a major league hockey game is as tough an assignment as there is in the civilized world. 

Certainly  tougher than ever because The Game never has been speedier. The quickness makes the art of "the right call" more difficult to accomplish.

Exhibit A is the overtime penalty called against Vegas for what some critics would label "a cheap infraction." Colorado exploited the man advantage and scored the winning goal.

Not surprisingly, Knights coach Peter DeBoer was incensed and you would have been too,  were you coaching Vegas. That's the nature of The Game. 

What's the solution?

I once asked Hall of Fame referee Bill (The Whistle) Chadwick a simple question: What's the secret to good refereeing? Bill gave me a simple -- yet profound -- answer: "Common sense."

That's what ref Andy van Hellemond used when I covered the four-overtime "Easter Epic" between the Capitals and Islanders. Andy's version of "Common Sense" in the overtimes was simply to let just about everything go. Everybody understood and nobody complained. 

It's easy for me to say; just grin and bear it. As for DeBoer and his Knights, the best answer would have been to kill the darn penalty. (And that's easy to say as well!)


THE JIVE: Pittsburgh's twin bosses, Brian Burke and Ron Hextall, are supporting their Big Three of Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang and Ev Malkin. They all want to return to Pittsburgh as Penguins in the fall.

Maybe it's the right thing to do.

Or, put it this way; you have to admire their camaraderie. That's commendable teamsmanship and, after all, Hexy and Burkie are team guys.


THE JIVE: More than once, I wrote that my buddy, Marc Bergevin, never should have fired head coach Claude Julien. I didn't think Claude deserved to be sacked and I insisted that his replacement Dom Ducharme wouldn’t make a difference. 

I was dead wrong about Ducharme. Dead wrong! Not only has Dom spurred the happy Habs into the second playoff round, but he orchestrated one of the NHL's most astonishing upsets, pulping Toronto in the first tourney. Full credit to Dom and more power to him and his Habs.


THE JIVE: Windsor's landmark arena -- alias The Old Barn -- is in trouble. Built in 1924, the iconic landmark in Windsor's downtown core for the past 97 years, is in danger of being razed. A "Save The Barn" petition campaign is underway.


Who was the legendary boxing champion who owned the NHL's Philadelphia Quakers in the early 1930's?

(Answer below.)

CLASSIC COMMENTS FROM YESTERYEAR: "Complain about my passing one more time and I'll hang you upside down out of this hotel window!"

- Leafs sharpshooter Charlie Conacher to complaining linemate Hal (Baldy) Cotton. By the way Cotton did complain again and Conacher hung him upside down out of Manhattan's Hotel Lincoln until Baldy promised never to beef again.

TRIVIA ANSWER: The Quakers owner was lightweight champ Benny Leonard.