We're basically a full calendar month into the playoffs, and all that's left of the second round is Game 7 of a California series to see who will try to take down the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Finals.
Unfortunately, hockey hasn't always been the focus.
Steve Dangle from The Leafs Nation posted a video a couple days ago which basically sums up some of my complaints about these playoffs. Sure, maybe some people haven't exactly liked the hockey being played in the second round, or in the playoffs in general. It's pretty difficult to deny some excitement though. But can we--and by we I mean the players because they're obviously beholden to my whims--please stick to hockey?
I honestly haven't paid so much attention to water bottles since David Clarkson vs. Todd Bertuzzi. But lo and behold, Corey Perry, Shawn Thornton, and Henrik Lundqvist force me to think about it. First we have Perry furthering his reputation as an insufferable pest who is sometimes good at hockey when he sprays Jeff Carter's glove during a stoppage of play. Carter's glove was probably already sweat-stained enough it didn't matter, but still: in isolation, it's either an innocent little prank between two teams that are supposed to hate each other or a confirmation of why everyone should hate Corey Perry.
But it's not an act in isolation as some players around the league took some inspiration from it. (And what a guy to get this inspiration from.) Shawn Thornton decided to one-up Perry and Ryane Clowe by water-spraying P.K. Subban in the face while play was going on. Depending on your willingness to dish out penalties, Thornton could have been assessed four minutes, two minutes each for interference and unsportsmanlike conduct. But the water sports didn't end there are Henrik Lundqvist decided just flat out dumping his water bottle onto Sidney Crosby was better than spraying a steady stream. Thornton and Lundqvist were both fined for their antics.
As ridiculous as the water bottle incidents can be, they're generally pretty harmless fun, unlike spearing. We saw firsthand Milan Lucic cementing his lore with a spear on Danny DeKeyser. Corey Perry (who else?) decided to join in on the fun when he thought it was cool to shove a stick blade into Jamie Benn. Amazingly, Perry was also involved in a spearing incident, but he wasn't the perpetrator. All jokes aside, all the spearing in the first round was ridiculous enough, but Crosby decided the league hadn't had enough of it yet when he went after Dominic Moore. It's tough to assess whether the NHL's lack of consequences for the spearing incidents really contributes to how often it happens in the future, but Daniel Briere has some insight from the player's perspective:
Daniel Briere on the proliferation of spearing incidents around NHL: "Nothing gets done and everybody has the green light to do it."— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) May 13, 2014
Whatever happens the rest of these playoffs, I hope the NHL is invested in focusing on hockey. They're obviously not caring enough to improve the quality of the product given how the officiating is turning out. Their lack of response to a singular incident of spearing or water spraying isn't particularly noteworthy unless it's egregious enough to warrant supplemental discipline because the referees missed the incident in-game. But these incidents are becoming a sideshow epidemic that's distracting everyone from compelling hockey. We had three Game 7s in one night in round one, and we were a Minnesota overtime goal away from having a Game 7 on four consecutive nights in round two.