Why the Sharks Deserved to Win Game 7

Originally Posted on The University News via UWIRE

Tuesday night the San Jose Sharks made an incredible comeback in a wild Game 7 against the Vegas Golden Knights, winning 5-4 in overtime. What is controversial about the Sharks’ victory is a 5-minute major penalty and ejection on Vegas’ Cody Eakin for cross-checking and injuring the Sharks’ captain James Pavelski. However, the Sharks’ impressive win in what was a memorable Game 7 was actually well deserved and should not have generated as much controversy as it has.

           First, regarding the penalty itself, it is difficult to argue that the referees seriously bungled the call. Rule 59.3 from the NHL rulebook states, “A major penalty, at the discretion of the Referee based on the severity of the contact, shall be imposed on a player or goalkeeper who ‘cross-checks’ an opponent.” Most are not debating whether Eakin cross-checked Pavelski, which is quite common after face-offs in the NHL and usually not called, but rather if it should have been a major or minor penalty, which was made awkward by Paul Stastny’s involvement in the hit.

           To add insult to injury, the NHL apparently quietly apologized to Vegas for the call after the game, and the refs who made the call will not be working in the second round of the playoffs. The NHL’s bewildering apology notwithstanding, considering the referees were not able to review the play and that the rulebook is clear on the consequences for injuries resulting from cross-checking, the call should not be so controversial.

           Vegas’ Jonathan Marchessault heavily criticized the call in a post-game interview, attributing Vegas’ loss in the series to it. Fans of all sports dispute difficult calls that make a big impact in a game or series. While missed calls can be much more important in single-game playoffs like in the NFL, which received a lot of criticism this year, in the NHL, teams have potentially seven games every series and abundant chances to turn the tide of or finish a series.

           Critics of the call should remember first that usually teams do not score four goals on a 5-minute power-play, as the Sharks did Tuesday – tying the NHL record. I distinctly remember when Vegas scored its third goal with about 15 minutes left in the third period, thinking that the game was over. Even after Pavelski was injured and Eakin ejected, I did not expect San Jose to score more than two goals on the power-play, after which Vegas would batten down the hatches and hold on to the end of the game.

Everyone’s surprise at the Sharks’ blistering power-play success is understandable, considering that Vegas had killed the previous four Sharks’ power-plays that game and had been stellar at killing penalties the whole series.

The Golden Knights could have called a time out to settle things after the first or second goal, but instead not only allowed a record number of goals on a major penalty, but failed to win the game in overtime after tying it with less than a minute left in regulation. To top it off, Vegas was leading 3-1 in the series. Forget about the horrible last penalty-kill in Game 7, what happened in games 5 and 6?

Anytime a teammate gets injured, especially one as respected as Pavelski, good teams usually respond with a new level of intensity and urgency. Considering the ballistic fury that the Sharks unleashed on the Golden Knights after the injury, I think that even had the call been simply a minor penalty, the Sharks would have possibly tied the game anyways.

           Vegas fans should focus not on the call, but on what was a very admirable season and great series to watch. Many fan bases have waited eons for a playoff run like Vegas’ historic one last year.

           For fans of San Jose, perhaps Pavelski’s loss may motivate the Sharks to make this their year, though it will not be easy without him.

Read more here: https://unewsonline.com/2019/05/02/why-the-sharks-deserved-to-win-game-7/
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