The Stanley Cup Playoffs are officially underway. While it’s still several more days before the Maple Leafs start up, last night was the first game last night between the Washington Capitals and the Boston Bruins and it was a very playoffs game.
Everything from the lighter touch at officiating to the intensity of the play was a big and welcome break from the more serene games of the final two weeks of the regular season. It started quickly with Alex Ovechkin waking everyone up that it’s the playoffs now and these games mean a lot.
Alex Ovechkin gets the playoffs started with a huge hit on David Krejci pic.twitter.com/LlJbK74oDW— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) May 15, 2021
And there were the usual odd moments that get memorialsed in GIFS.
Easily the top unexpected moment of the game came quite early on, when the Bruins scored on Capitals goalie Vitek Vanecek who injured himself trying to make the save to a point that he waived for the trainer to come help him out, and then he left the game. Who did the Capitals have on the bench as the backup?
Yes, you are seeing that correctly. It’s Craig Anderson, whose most recent playoff game was back in 2017 when he famously took the Senators all the way to the Conference Final. He has played only four games this year as the Capitals second backup goalie (their starter is Ilya Samsonov who is out injured.) It turns out Anderson’s still got it, even at his age, which will be 40 years old as of this coming Friday. He let in only one goal over the and the Capitals eventually won in overtime.
This all brought on one of the most bizarre rants I have heard on Hockey Night in Canada for some time, probably since Don Cherry was fired. Kelly Hrudey, the ex-goalie in residence on the first intermission panel, decided to go off on Vanecek. The full text is below, if you can read the tiny font, but he essentially claims it’s Vanecek’s own fault he pulled a muscle because he didn’t stretch enough before the game, and because of that he “does not feel sorry” for him because “NHL goalies should not be pulling or straining muscles,” which, uh, I think we all have seen that happen quite regularly every season. Then he calls Vanecek a bad pro and that his conduct is “unfair to the organisation”. Really?
Sportsnet's Kelly Hrudey with a hell of a take on Caps goalie Vitek Vanecek's injury pic.twitter.com/wf50AHTsNn— Brian McNally (@bmcnally14) May 16, 2021
Let’s take a step back here for a second. Should goalies do lots of stretching all day on a game day? Yes, of course. Would a professional goalie whose been playing for years like Vanecek stretch before the game? Yes, of course.
Now, what does Kelly Hrudey know about Vitek Vanecek, his stretching routine, or, even what exactly his injury was? If you answered “nothing at all” then you are correct! In fact, we still aren’t really sure exactly what happened to Vanecek beyond the fact he thought it was so bad he couldn’t play anymore.
How Hrudey got so wound up about this to go on a rant about things he really doesn’t know is bizarre. Did Vanecek send him a text before the game saying “stretching is for losers LOL”? What bothers me even more is how everyone else on the panel simply gave it a pass. No one attempted a rebuttal or even visibly reacted but simply moved on letting it sit out there. That was much different from last week when Kevin Bieksa got a great response from Jennifer Botterill on the Tom Wilson incident. That conversation drew a lot of praise for the back and forth.
Maybe this panel was too stunned to wade into that madness? Maybe they thought they can’t speak with credibility on the subject of goalies? I don’t know, but the reaction has been quite negative everywhere, not even solely among Caps fans—most of whom are asking who Hrudey even is—but form everyone.
Kelly Hrudey let his team down with this one. Any NHL goalie should know better than to take a puck to the groin pic.twitter.com/2TwGAhDlNO— Capital Gains (@Capital_Gains65) May 16, 2021
Anyway, there are three playoff games scheduled for today, all nicely spaced out one at a time. The Islanders and Penguins start it off at noon ET. The real first round craziness won’t hit until Tuesday (Monday is a holiday in the U.S.) when we’ll start regularly having three or four games all going on at once.
I wish there was more news and links from around the league to share today, but there is a rather big lull right now as the playoffs wind up. We’ll have another episode of Back to Excited will be out this afternoon. Enjoy your Sunday. I’ll leave you with this Tweet from one of the greatest Canadian hockey players ever.