While offering no update on the status of two injured forwards on Sunday, Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice continued to direct criticism at a player he felt was responsible for one of his key charges leaving the ice.
Calgary Flames counterpart Geoff Ward, however, doesn’t share Maurice’s opinion about Matthew Tkachuk.
After saying Tkachuk delivered a “filthy, dirty kick” to the back of Jets centre Mark Scheifele’s left leg in the first period of Calgary’s 4-1 series-opening win on Saturday night, Maurice was asked Sunday if he feels the Flames winger is a dirty player.
“If you sin once are you a sinner? Sin 10 times? I don’t think he came off the bench and said, ‘Hey I’m going to see if I can go stab the back of Mark Scheifele’s leg with my skate.’ I think he got to that point and I think that’s exactly what he did,” Maurice said.
Maurice wouldn’t confirm Scheifele, who didn’t return, suffered a cut. Nor would Maurice say anything more about star winger Patrik Laine, who headed to the dressing room after a collision with Flames captain Mark Giordano in the third period.
Scheifele appeared to jam his left leg under him skating into the boards, as Tkachuk applied his arm to Scheifele’s back.
The lack of injury information came as no surprise during the COVID-19 pandemic. The NHL and NHL Players’ Association agreed earlier this summer that clubs are not allowed to disclose injury or illness information during the league’s return.
Ward, speaking later Sunday, went to bat for Tkachuk, saying there was no intent to injure and that it was an unfortunate result. He also said Maurice might have been trying to send a message to the league with his words.
“I understand what Paul is doing. Paul is trying to defend and support his player and I’m going to defend and support our player right now,” Ward said. “He’s trying to get an elite on our team suspended by the league.”
There was no word on any supplementary discipline Sunday, nor was there a penalty called on the play.
It’s not the first time Tkachuk has been in the spotlight for controversy this season. Earlier this year, he refused to fight Edmonton’s Zack Kassian after delivering a series of hits on the Oilers winger. In the next game between the teams, the two did fight.
“If we’re talking about another player, if it was Johnny Gaudreau instead of Matthew Tkachuk, we’re probably not even talking about it,” Ward said.
Jets winger Adam Lowry had a different take.
“I don’t know if I’d say dirty, I would say reckless,” Lowry said when asked to describe Tkachuk. “We all play hard, I don’t have the cleanest track record either. When you play a physical brand of hockey, sometimes you step over the line. That was one of those plays where it’s kind of reckless.”
The Jets don’t have time to sulk. Game 2 of the best-of-five series is Monday afternoon at Rogers Place, with the third game of the qualifying round just over 24 hours later.
Maurice is hoping his team’s familiarity with adversity will help going forward.
“The inexplicable is the story of the Winnipeg Jets from your ‘A’ defenceman (Dustin Byfuglien) not showing up to play, losing a veteran (Bryan Little) for a season, maybe for a career, to all the inexplicable things that happened to the hockey team this year,” Maurice said. “This would be par for the course. I think we had the pause and thought we had gotten out of that situation. Last night was a reminder we’re right back in it.”
LEARNING ON THE FLY
The Montreal Canadiens pulled off the biggest upset of Day 1, beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 in overtime in Toronto.
The lowest-ranked team still playing, the youthful Habs traded away some veterans earlier this year and had next to no shot at making the playoffs when she season shut down in March. The Penguins, conversely, still have many of the key players from their 2016 and ‘17 Stanley Cup teams.
“Experience matters,” Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher said as the team geared up for Game 2 on Monday. “We know we’re playing probably the most experienced team in entire playoffs, they’re not going to be rattled by much. For our team, when you go through the things we went through last night, that’s how you gain experience. You go through those moments you can fall back on those things.”
Canadiens coach Claude Julien earned praise for rolling four lines against the high-powered Penguins.
“Throughout the series, I think that’s what going to give us a chance,” he said. “There are things I can’t control, that’s their experience versus ours. There’s nothing I can do about it. What I can find is a philosophy that’s maybe going to give us the best chance to win this series.”
Julien won a Stanley Cup with Boston in 2011 and made the final in 2013 with the Bruins.
Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said he expects all-star defenceman Dougie Hamilton to remain out for Game 2 against the New York Rangers on Monday in Toronto.
However, Brind’Amour said Hamilton skated Sunday and is “getting close.”
Carolina beat New York 3-2 in Game 1.
Chicago Blackhawks forward Drake Caggiula was suspended for one game for an illegal check to the head of Edmonton Oilers forward Tyler Ennis during Game 1 on Saturday.
The incident happened in the second period of Chicago’s 6-4 victory over the Oilers.
Ennis left the game but returned in the third period.
Game 2 of their series is Monday.