With the Canadiens tying their series with Ottawa after an inspirational 3-1 win following the ugliness of the Lars Eller incident, it got me thinking: Was it better to play another game the next night and plough straight ahead despite the controversy and ensuing fallout?
Had there been a three-day break between games as there is in the Leafs-Boston series, the Ellers fallout may have been blown up to much more volatile proportions in a hockey hothouse like Montreal.
But the NHL’s two-game suspension handed down by Brendan Shanahan to Ottawa defenceman Eric Gryba, helped kicked the legs out from under the issue. From an optics standpoint, justice appears to have been done, surprising many hockey commentators who thought the hit a legitimate hockey play that wouldn’t result in supplementary discipline. At any rate, a good hockey game was played and any apparent hostilities and shenanigans were kept to a minimum.
For some strange scheduling reason, the Canadiens-Sens series has had the only back-to-back games out of all the playoff matchups and for the reasons cited, the timing proved propitious.
By contrast, does having a longer break between games benefit the Leafs’ fortunes? Will having an extra day distance them from their sad Game 1 effort while at the same time taking some air out of the Bruins’ momentum?
As far as I can tell, there aren’t many statistics kept of how this favours teams positively or negatively whether you’re following a great performance or trying to re-group from a bad one.
Obviously a longer break would be an advantage in helping heal players’ bumps and bruises as in the case for Cody Franzen who suffered a bruised foot. It won’t really do much for Mike Kosta’s broken finger that will likely turn into a season-ending injury for him.
Of course those injuries open the door for one or both of Jake Gardiner and Ryan O’Byrne to be in the line-up. Despite his much publicized defensive deficiencies in his own zone, there’s no denying Gardiner’s skating and his ability to get it out of his own zone once he’s given some room — was something sorely lacking in Game 1. O’Byrne provides size, toughness and is more of a stay-at-home type so Carlyle should just pick one from column A and one from column B and get over it. The Leafs are fortunate to have those options.
Roster diversions aside, the extra day should help the Leafs. It’s more difficult to keep great momentum going after a break; it’s just plain harder to raise your game to an extremely high level not to mention have some bounces go your way.
The Leafs meantime have nowhere to go but up from their Game 1 performance. To the credit of the team’s coaching staff, the gloom of Wednesday’s defeat appears to have hung fairly lightly on their shoulders because to a player, they all know they are capable of more.
Prediction: Expect a much closer, competitive game from the Leafs. Even a one-goal loss in Game 2 will serve as a good character-builder as they head home for Game 3 on Monday.