The Toronto Maple Leafs dominated the Montreal Canadiens, scoring a 5-1 victory in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The series is now tied 1-1. Fortunately, Toronto didn’t score the fifth goal until the 18:37 mark of the third period. It seems that a four-goal deficit was finally enough for Montreal to admit defeat. The Habs then started setting the tone for Game 3. Montreal had made it clear since well before the series started that they wanted to be physical. Josh Anderson predicted: “It’s going to be a war out there.” Only after being down 5-1, they reverted to that game plan.
Although Montreal only had one minute and 23 seconds, the Habs made the most of it. Montreal’s Paul Byron, all 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds of him, cross-checked Pierre Engvall from behind, knocking the 6-foot-5 214 pound forward face-first into the boards. Engvall shook it off and stayed on the ice along with other big guys, Wayne Simmonds and Joe Thornton. Simmonds skated to the front of the net nine seconds later, where Montreal’s Ben Chiarot grabbed him by the head, while the Habs’ Joel Edmundson came into face-wash Simmonds with his stick. Montreal captain Shea Weber put his stick in Engvall’s skate on the ensuing faceoff and pulled him closer to cross-check his leg.
Setting the Tone can be Dangerous
The offenders from both sides were escorted off the ice, and it would seem there were no injuries. But in any one of those situations, there could’ve been. Just hours before, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov laid on the ice, grabbing his knee. Tampa Bay had flat-out destroyed the Florida Panthers 6-2. With under ten minutes to go in the third period, Anthony Duclair slashed Kucherov behind the knee, right in the spot where there is no padding.
At the time of writing this article, there is no word on Kucherov’s status. But anyone watching the game saw how ugly it was getting. There were 68 penalty minutes in the third period alone. The difference between this game and the Toronto game seems to be the amount of time Florida had to “send a message” and “set the tone” for the next game.
Part of Playoffs Within Parameters
As much as it may have hurt his team, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper isn’t opposed to teams trying to set up for the next game. “There’s nothing wrong with message-sending and tone-setting. That’s part of the game. That’s why we love it. That’s why people are lined up for tickets. It’s awesome. But do it in the parameters of the game, and the guys in stripes ought to control that. If it’s not controlled, stuff like this happens like tonight [where] you have superstars lying on the ice,” he said.
Setting the tone for the next game is playoff hockey. That’s why a seven-game series is so much fun to watch. The intensity builds and carries over. However, as Cooper said, set the tone within the rules of the game. There may not be another sport that allows for more legal tone-setting than hockey. Fighting is legal. If you want to set the tone, challenge the other guys to throw down the gloves. Or you can land a big hit. Yes, hitting is legal, and there are several ways to perform a clean body check, the kind that rumbles the boards and will indeed send a message. Montreal’s antics of cross-checking a player from behind and putting a guy in a headlock so your buddy can take a shot fall well outside of the parameters. There is no place for that in today’s game – playoffs or not.
Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.