Injuries and Their Impact on the Stanley Cup Playoffs
With the second round of the playoffs said and done and the Conference Finals currently underway, the outcomes of multiple matchups have been decided by injuries. From offense to defense, to special teams, certain teams have suffered drastically in certain departments due to the injuries they had to manage. Teams like the Nashville Predators went without Norris Trophy finalist Roman Josi in a series against a team favored to win the Stanley Cup which lead to what seemed to be a massacre and resulted in a sweep. The Pittsburgh Penguins went through three different goalies in their series where they ended up falling short in seven games to the New York Rangers. And the list goes on for all these teams. Injuries have changed these playoffs and it would be a completely different year if specific players were unavailable for their teams when they were needed most.
In the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Norris Trophy finalist Roman Josi was sidelined as his Nashville Predators took on the star-studded Colorado Avalanche. Throughout that series, the Predators had no answer for the Avalanche, as they swept them and make it look effortless. Josi would have been a huge boost to the Predators' defense, playing a huge part in their penalty kill and stopping an Avalanche team that can score from anywhere on the ice. With his defense, they would have more time of possession and had more breakaway chances due to his ability to disrupt teams from setting up their offense at the blue line. Ultimately, his absence affected every aspect of their game and led to them watching the rest of the playoffs from home.
Another first-round bout between the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins was injury-plagued which ultimately helped decide the outcome of the series. Going into the series, the Penguins were without their number one netminder, Tristan Jarry. He had been terrific throughout the season going 34-18-6 with a 0.919 save percentage and an average of 2.42 goals allowed per game. This left their backup in the net, which didn’t last long either. Backup goalie Casey DeSmith played through most of the long game in the first game between the two teams, before he suffered an injury in the second overtime. This left third-string goalie Louis Domingue to protect the net throughout the majority of the series. Along with the chaos at goalie, veteran center Sidney Crosby went down with an injury in the fifth game of the series, forcing him to miss some of that game along with game six. The Rangers ended up winning both games without him, as a loss would’ve eliminated them from the playoffs for good.
With the Conference Finals currently taking place, one injury has plagued the defending champion Tamp Bay Lightning. In game one of the Conference Semifinals between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay centerman Brayden Point suffered an injury that forced him to miss the rest of that series, along with the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Rangers. Although his presence might not have been the deciding factor in game one where they lost by a score of 6-2, their tough loss in game 2 could have gone much differently if their crafty center was out there with that first line he appeared on all season. They ultimately lost the second game 3-2 and fell short despite their late surge to almost pulling the game back into their favor. It is hard to say one player’s absence is that effective, but when it is someone as influential as Brayden Point, who facilitates so well and turns every possession into a scoring chance, this could be one of the deciding factors in this series.
The Colorado Avalanche is set to take on the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Finals. Brayden Point comes back for the Lightning while the Avalanche gets their number one netminder, Darcy Kuemper, back as well. While the Avalanche awaits the return of their all-star goalie, they are set to play without centermen Nazem Kadri, who brings a veteran mind to a team full of young, talented players.
Playoffs can be decided by injury at times. Each team comes out trying to play the best hockey they can, as they compete to hoist the almighty Stanley Cup Trophy. But their path to the top can come to an abrupt ending if just one player goes down the wrong way, or if anything happens to send someone back to the locker room early. Both the Avalanche and Lightning face off for their chance to get their hands on “Lord Stanley”.