After the San Jose Sharks win over the St. Louis Blues in Game 3 last night, we can start to expect any Google search that starts with “San Jose Sharks” to suggest the next word be “controversial.” Inconsistent officiating is not new to anyone this postseason, but last night’s missed hand pass (I have yet to see a replay in which the puck clearly contacts Jay Bouwmeester’s leg before reaching Gustav Nyquist’s stick, but it doesn’t matter: according to Rule 79.1 about hand passes, “play shall not be stopped unless ... control of the puck is obtained by a player of the offending team, either directly or deflected off any player or official”) by Timo Meier on Erik Karlsson’s overtime winner was just the last of many officiating oversights during the game.
The officials on the ice missed a hand pass in overtime. They also missed David Perron tossing the puck from his defensive zone right into the netting and scoring on the subsequent play. They also missed Sammy Blais shoulder checking Justin Braun in the head. Blues fans would argue that those aren’t equivalent because one led directly to an overtime goal and they would be right. But the bad officiating have always been part of the NHL postseason. To win the Stanley Cup, a team has to be both very good and very lucky, and I have plenty of time for the argument that the latter is more important.
Right now, the Sharks are both.
What’s on tap
Boston Bruins at Carolina Hurricanes Game 4 (BOS leads 3-0)
5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
The Hurricanes are officially in must win mode, and all-but-officially finished. A win tonight won’t mean much realistically, other than a bit of pride at not getting swept, and a little extra gate revenue for Jeremy Jacobs. For us, though, a Carolina win means two more days the Bruins don’t get to rest before reaching the Final and facing the Sharks (crossing fingers, knocking on wood, paying refs, etc.), so we’re hoping the ‘Canes find their home ice advantage again and take this thing back to Boston.
Game 3 was the Hurricanes’ first loss at home this postseason, and aside from the transcendent play of Tuukka Rask, special teams was a story again. Brad Marchand scored on one of the Bruins’ two power play opportunities, and Carolina came up empty on five, including 45 seconds of 5-on-3 time. The key for Carolina tonight will be the same key that has eluded them for three games: stay out of the box, contain the Bruins’ power play, beat Rask. Boston will try to continue according to plan: get under their hosts’ skin, punish on the scoreboard with the extra man. The fourth win is the hardest, so they say, so the Bruins need to resist looking too far ahead.
Tuukka Rask: This dude is the Boston Bruins right now. The Hurricanes put 20 shots on goal in the first period of Game 3, and led in shot attempts 33-9 going into the first intermission with nary a thing to show for it. Rask is 11-5 in the playoffs so far with a .939 save percentage and a 1.96 goals against average. One wonders if his performance will be an argument for a heavier workload for backup goaltenders in the regular season. Rask played 46 games this season thanks to the strong play of Jaroslav Halak, his lowest total since 2012-13, a season in which he played 36 and the Bruins made the Stanley Cup Final in front of a .940 performance. Hurricanes, Sharks, and Blues fans should all be concerned.
Curtis McElhinney: As loathe as I am to put two goalies in this space, the 35-year-old playoff freshman has been a rock for the Hurricanes this postseason. Boasting a 3-1 record with a .943 save percentage and a 1.70 goals against average, McElhinney will need to continue to be strong to support his skaters, because Rask won’t give them much.
Looking on the bright side of the other side of the coin, if the Bruins sweep the Hurricanes after the Hurricanes swept the New York Islanders after the Islanders swept the Pittsburgh Penguins is it the Bruins’ destiny to be swept out of the Final? The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, and pattern recognition is king.