It is the time of year where multiple sports are culminating to an end, with championships and playoffs just beginning. The National Hockey League has just started with the playoffs for the teams, which have the best records throughout the long regular season. For just the first week, the teams have already begun exhibiting skills, as well as many players being injured as well as players being suspended early on. The most recent game was the second match up this week between the Northern Pittsburgh Penguins and the Nashville Flyers with the win going to the Flyers with a three-point lead. The second game of Friday night was with the Minnesota Wilds against the Winnipeg Jets.
The first round of the game ones for the league consisted of a total of eight games, and three of the games were major blowouts, which is pointing a clear direction to which teams have weak points and which teams are more prepared for future. The first game with the Nashville team against the Flyers was won with seven to none finishing score. The downfall of the second game between the rivals was watching as their loved player Letang was absolutely obliterated by an aggressive back angled knockdown by Nashville Player Giroux.
It was disappointing for many fans to watch and later see that this move took him out of the game during the second period, but he will no doubt be back for the next round of plays during the season. This season is also proving to be one, which is exhibiting which players have the most resilience and need to be playing for their team’s success.
But this was only the beginning of the first few days of play being riddled with injuries. The game, which was the Blue Jackets against the Washington Capitals, ended in a serious defeat of the Washington team, with a close score of four to three being won in overtime. Artemi Panarion was the player who implemented the overtime goal, which was such a feel good for the team to prepare for the second game with the opposing team.
The season is already off to a rough start physically for the players, with both teams caving into costly penalties, with players being placed into the box. One of the worst injuries of the first game was the line of dripping blood left on the ice when Nick Foligno fell after being slammed in the face with a slap shot, but he returned back to the last period with grace. It was clear that the number of rough slams and motions taken between the players was taking a toll on the teams, as they showed their decrease of hard hits and slightly lazy skating on the ice.
The Tampa Bay Lightning had a great first game against the New Jersey Devils with a three-point win. The major highlights of the match showed the strong unity that the Lightning players exhibited during the game, both with strong plays, as well as great defense. With Stamkos being such a strong shot taker, and with him also being absent over at least half of the regular season matchups, it was refreshing to see him both playing and shooting goals.
A big controversy during this first week has been the crackdown throughout the league, as regulations and rules are getting much more strict and tight. As the league has already begun to see suspensions early on, it is clear that they mean business. There has always been this stigma around the NHL playoffs that the referees and goal calls are always loose, with a lower percentage of fouls and penalties, as well as players getting more physical and getting away with more. But 2018 is a year for changes in the league, with the fans watching as the Kings player Drew Doughty being suspended during the first game.
The play that caused his suspension was the move when Doughty began tailing and engaging Golden Knights player Cartier, and when they continued to exchange steals and minor bumps, he skated in with a hard check in Cartier’s shoulder. This move resulted in anger and shock from Cartier and culminated in the fellow arbitrator being ejected from the game.
In a similar situation, Maple Leafs Nazem Kadri has also been suspended whilst playing against Tommy Wingels during their game as they lost to the Boston Bruins. Kadri’s hit to Wingels was clearly intentional and aggressive and cost him a three-game leave for that move. It will be interesting to see the future moves made as we move forward in this season.