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Photo Credit: © Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Quick Hits: Refs, Bouchard, Kassian and More

The Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens combined for 154 hits in two games, and on top of that we saw multiple scrums, numerous crosschecks and a healthy dose of verbal sparring. There was a playoff-like feel to both games. It was fun to watch, and the players who spoke after the games said they were fun games to be involved in. The emotion was heightened, and these two games illustrated how little emotion there was in the Oilers/Blackhawks play-in series last August.

In those four games the Oilers had a total of 115 hits. Chicago had 83. Those games only averaged 49 hits/game.

Edmonton had 80 hits in two games against Montreal, while the Canadiens had 74. It was intense, fiery and nasty. It gave Oilersnation a quick refresher on how physical and nasty most playoff series will be. The Chicago/Edmonton series was an anomaly. Don’t expect games where both teams combined for 34 and 37 hits like Edmonton and Chicago did in games two and three.

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Think back to 2017. Edmonton and San Jose averaged 67 hits/game in their six game series, while the Oilers and Ducks averaged 70 hits/game.

Playoff hockey is different and this year’s playoffs will mirror what we saw the past two games. Game one of the playoffs against Montreal, Winnipeg or Toronto will be the 10th meeting of the season. The rivalries will be built up and I won’t be surprised if we see 80 hits/game or more. It will not be for the faint of heart.

I thought the referees, Marc Joanette and Kendrick Nicholson had a great game on Monday. The game was physical, but they called the obvious infractions and didn’t call any ticky-tack penalties on either team.

Last night, however, I thought Nicholson and Eric Furlatt had a tough night. Just like players, officials will have off-nights, and last night was one of them. They decided they were going to let a lot go, which if fine — as long as you stick to that.

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They called a tripping penalty on each goalie. Both were weak. I thought Tyler Toffoli stepped on Smith’s stick more than the goalie tripped him, and Jake Allen clearly didn’t trip Connor McDavid. But if you want to say they even each other out, that is fair.

Nicholson and Furlatt made it clear they were going to allow a lot of crosschecking, obstruction and holding for both teams. And they did — up until Leon Draisaitl was called for interference. I’ve watched that replay multiple times. How is that interference?

That is simply an incorrect call. Draisaitl was already committed to delivering a clean body check, so even if you think Edmundson didn’t touch the puck, he made an attempt to, so I don’t see how that is interference. The officials decided they would allow crosschecks and obstruction in the first 40 minutes, but decide that is a penalty?

Just be consistent, and last night I felt the referees weren’t. It happens. It creates a lot of emotion among fans, which is what sports is supposed to do. You walk a fine line between elation and frustration.

The irony of last night was that earlier in the day at  the NHL GM meetings they were discussing crosschecking and the need to limit it. I reached out to a GM about that and he said, “I got off the phone from the call and a few hours later I was watching Montreal/Edmonton and it was a crosschecking festival. Don’t change the rule, just call the rules we have,” he said.

I’ve never understood the NHL’s unwillingness to simply enforce the current rulebook. Last night there were many opportunities to call penalties, on both teams. But the incorrect call on Draisaitl was the most egregious, as the Canadiens scored on the ensuing powerplay. I have no idea if the outcome would have been different. That is a ‘what if’ scenario none of us can prove, but I see no debate that was the wrong call.

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I’m fine if they want to let teams play. I don’t agree with it — because why have a rule book? — but at least the players will know what the guidelines are for that game.

It was an entertaining game. Both of these two games were and if the intensity is going to be like this in the playoffs I can’t wait. It will be fun to watch.

BOUCHARD…

Feb 11, 2021; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens goalie Jake Allen (34) stops Edmonton Oilers defenseman Evan Bouchard (75) during the first period at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The Oilers had discussions with Evan Bouchard and his agent about possibly going to the American League now that Dmitry Kulikov is healthy and Edmonton has eight defenders. They’ve decided he will stay with the club. Bouchard would have to quarantine for three days (AHL guidelines) before he could skate, and then he’d have to quarantine for seven when recalled to Edmonton — a total of 10 days in quarantine for the chance to play nine AHL games.

I was told Bouchard feels he will get more out of practicing every day with the team and wants to be here in case of an injury and an opportunity to play. I could see him playing one or two games in May, likely during the span when Edmonton plays Vancouver four straight games.

INJURIES MOUNTING…

Zack Kassian left in the first period last night and he will be re-evaluated today. I’m told he won’t be skating the next few days and could miss some games. They need to see how he feels today and that will determine the next step. It sounds like he will miss a few games, but they aren’t sure how many.

Joakim Nygard sat out last night with some swelling. It sounds like a hand issue, and they took a cautious approach and kept him out of the lineup.

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Jujhar Khaira is feeling good, but there is no timetable a return date yet. He had his legs buckle for the second time in a month so they will be cautious about his return.

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