The NHL Wants A Narrative

Last night the San Jose Sharks defeated the Colorado Avalanche in game seven to advance to the Western Conference Final. The game in itself had a lot of small narratives. The return of Joe Pavelski, and him scoring in the first period. The moment caused the Shark Tank to erupt and set the tone for the entire game. It also apparently tied a blindfold over the officials eyes.

The Avalanche seemed to behind the eight ball the entire game. They were getting worked over in the faceoff circle. The crowd was smothering, and oh yeah they lost Nathan MacKinnon for ten minutes in the first period.

However once MacKinnon returned the game the dynamic changed. The Avs were barely hanging on before the talisman returned. He immediately evened out the game and managed to help the Avs score with six seconds left in the first period. So headed into the second period the game that once felt out of hand was seemingly up for grabs. What transpired was an interesting display of officiating.

The Sharks had three power play opportunities in a span of thirty minutes to the Avalanche zero power plays. Then the Avs had a goal disallowed for a player being offsides. Now unless there was an angle we didn’t get on TV it appears there was no conclusive evidence to prove whether or not Gabriel Landeskog had tagged up or not. Furthermore he was not even involved in the play he was attempting to open the bench door to sit down. By the time the Avs scored the disallowed goal Landeskog ass was firmly planted on the pine pony. I guess by the technical definition of the rule he could have been offside but replay did not give clear evidence to overturn the call on the ice, yet the officials did.

There is also the mysterious lack of penalties called on Erik Karlsson. During the second period Karlsson committed a number of infractions that under normal circumstances would be considered penalties. Karlssons “infractions” were committed on the Avalanche’s star players while they were carrying the puck. A trip to MacKinnon, an interference on Rantanen, and a hold on Landeskog. So it’s hard for me to imagine all of these infractions were “missed” by the officials. Considering they happened to the puck carrier and involved two star players.

So why Johnny, why would the NHL so desperately want the Sharks to win? Well my children it is for the sake of a narrative. The NHL is in a dangerous scenario right now. A Cup matchup that no one cares about. This hasn’t happened in a long time thanks to the efforts of the Penguins, Blackhawks, and Capitals. Imagine an NHL Stanley Cup Final featuring the St Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets. The hockey world may love it but the greater public could care less.

Now imagine a scenario of one of the NHL’s Greatest 100 players of all time scoring the game winning goal to win his first Stanley Cup by defeating the team that drafted him. Now that is a sports story that could be written in the chronicles of history. Jumbo Joe Thornton goes out on top after defeating the Boston Bruins in game seven to win the Stanley Cup.

I’m not accusing the NHL of fixing games. I believe that at the beginning of the playoffs it’s anyone’s to win. But as the big names began to fall I do think there was a serious inclination that maybe we let San Jose have a few extra calls. Or maybe we lean a little one way for Boston.

Look I get it this is a lot of tin foil hat type thinking, but as I was watching last night’s game seven the feeling just wouldn’t leave me. It just felt like the Avalanche played good enough to win, and there was just some invisible force keeping them from breaking through. Some call it the hockey gods, I call it television ratings.

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