Editor’s Note: Occasionally, with inspiration from Andrew Sharp’s excellent #HotSportsTakes series at Grantland (R.I.P.), we will attempt to write the worst Sharks column on the internet. This is satire (or an attempt, at least), and should not be taken seriously. Today’s topic: devastating injuries to the reigning Stanley Cup finalists.
PITTSBURGH — An errant shot hits a player in the head. An awkward collision causes a star to miss significant time. A long playoff run now looks like it could be considerably shorter.
Sharks fans, stop me if you’ve seen this movie before.
It’s the plot of the horror film San Jose lived through down the stretch of the regular season, when Logan Couture suffered multiple facial fractures after taking a puck to the face in Nashville, and Joe Thornton tore his ACL and MCL in Vancouver.
Now, the sequel is set in our nation’s Capital and the Steel City.
Like many horror follow-ups, the leads have been recast. Ron Hainsey plays the role of Logan Couture, minus the facial fractures. And just as he did in the Hart Trophy race as a 19-year-old, Sindey Crosby is once again succeeding Joe Thornton, but with a concussion instead of two torn knee ligaments.
Like all great sequels, the stakes are raised. These incidents have occurred during the second round of the postseason, between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, two hated rivals playing in the playoffs for the third time since 2009.
And like The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, there are revelations that change the way you view what came before.
As Josh Yohe at DK Sports observed, after Hainsey was hit by Alex Ovechkin’s shot in the side of the head, “[o]ne got the sense from the Penguins after the game that they believed Ovechkin, while not necessarily acting with intent, was pretty careless regarding how he fired the puck in Hainsey’s direction.”
That’s just the start.
While some in the media are chalking up Crosby’s concussion-causing collision with Matt Niskanen as an unfortunate accident, Upgruv’s Penguins columnist Rob Rossi has gotten to the bottom of it in calling for Ovechkin’s suspension for his role in the incident, as he slashed Crosby hard enough to leave him vulnerable to Niskanen:
If they say it wasn't about eliminating Crosby, the Capitals are liars. And if that sounds like an unfair accusation to make of the Capitals, then please consider my decade of experience covering a sport I love and a league I really, really, really want to give the benefit of the doubt.
(Or maybe consider their coach publicly saying his players must go places they hadn't gone before?)
Sorry, but I cannot give the Capitals, or the NHL, any benefit. And I doubt very much there wasn't an intent to injure Crosby when this series shifted to Pittsburgh.
Conspiracy, not catastrophe.
Machinations, not misfortune.
Sedition, not a setback.
It makes you wonder if the Penguins’ fellow Stanley Cup finalist was subjected to the same fate.
After all, the Nashville Predators may not have been acting with intent when one of their own deflected Brent Burns’ powerful point shot into Logan Couture’s face, but they were pretty careless with the direction in which it was deflected.
What reason would the Vancouver Canucks have to injure Joe Thornton, one of the Sharks’ best offensive players? After all, Vancouver would have received a first round pick as a condition in the Nikolay Goldobin/Jannik Hansen swap if the Sharks won the Stanley Cup.
That creates plenty of reasonable doubt, right?
It’s the perfect cover for the perfect crime.
You see, the Canucks, Predators, and Capitals are just pawns on a larger chessboard. It’s not about blue, gold, or red white and blue, but the only colors that matter in the eyes of the National Hockey League.
The silver and black on their logo, and the green that comes along with increased revenue.
Consider that last year’s Sharks-Penguins final was the third-lowest rated Stanley Cup matchup since 2006, when the NHL reopened its doors for the first time following a season-long lockout. Fans in the Bay Area and the City of Champions would have benefited from a rematch, but not the bigwigs in the league office.
Just look how the league’s co-conspirators have already been rewarded.
Vancouver gets to open the preseason as part of hockey’s first entry into China, a massive, untapped market of potential consumers.
Nashville is halfway to its first appearance outside of the second round after laying low all regular season and drawing an overrated Chicago squad in the first round.
Washington will have Niskanen and Ovechkin in the lineup in Game 4 as the Capitals try to tie the series, as neither was subject to further discipline from the league office.
You can see it however you want, folks. But don’t discount the nearly two years of experience blogging about a sport I love and a team I really, really, really want to see succeed.
From here, the view is clear. The NHL sent the Canucks, Predators, and Capitals after the Penguins and Sharks in order to prevent another ratings disaster.
What’s happening in Pittsburgh is the sequel to the horror film fans in San Jose saw down the stretch. The protagonists couldn’t make it out alive in the original, but still can in the sequel. After all, there’s one thing the NHL and other horror movie villains can’t account for.
A twist ending.