Here are two of the things we know for sure about Game-5 and Game-6 of the Stanley Cup playoff series between the Seattle Kraken and Colorado Avalanche: For Wednesday night’s game in Denver, Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar will be serving a one-game suspension; for Game-6 back in Seattle, Makar will face the verbal wrath of almost 18-thousand fans at Climate Pledge Arena.
The suspension and the animus both are outgrowths of the most debated play thus far in the series.
Eight minutes into Game-4, Kraken winger Jared McCann skated in on a shorthanded breakaway. A frame-by-frame review shows that exactly two seconds after his shot is deflected out of play by Avalanche goalie Alexandar Georgiev, Makar rams his shoulder into an unsuspecting McCann. Two seconds isn’t much, but it’s plenty of time for both players to know the puck is not in their vicinity.
“‘Canner’ (McCann) shoots that puck, it goes immediately out of play, straight up into the netting, and however many feet, I don’t really care about that …” Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol said postgame. “I believe the puck is being caught by a fan as Canner is being run into the end wall. So, late hit, really late, no puck in play, and like I said, our 40-goal scorer not available for the rest of the game and not going to be available going forward here.”
Not braced for the hit, McCann smashed awkwardly into the glass, then crumpled to the ice. What punishment would Colorado’s star defenseman face? (A) no penalty, (B) a major boarding penalty, (C) a minor interference penalty, or (D) a suspension for the following game? As it turned out, all of the above.
Makar was initially held blameless. The officials huddled as Kraken trainers attended to the visibly struggling McCann. A major was then assessed, but upon further review, reduced to a two minute minor. The next day, after the Kraken’s 3-2 overtime victory tied the series, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety ruled Makar ineligible for Wednesday night’s contest.
Reaction Outside Kraken Land …
McCann, the Kraken’s 40-goal scorer and a 70-point man in the regular season, won’t be able to play in Game-5 and is doubtful to return for the remainder of the series. Reaction to the incident generally went against the perpetrator, but varied depending on location:
Elliotte Friedman, Sportsnet: “Makar has McCann lined up, but he waits until he’s shoulder to shoulder. He doesn’t bury him from behind, he doesn’t go for the head. He actually does it properly, except it’s really late, and late is not clean. Late matters.”
Will Petersen, Denver Radio Host: “I am laughing so hard at these uneducated Seattle fans thinking Cale Makar is some sort of villain. Learn the game. Literally one of the most respectful athletes I’ve ever met.”
Bennett Durando, Denver Post: “Unfathomably at the center of the hostility was Makar, the 24-year-old superstar with the rosy cheeks and boyish charm. Makar, who has perhaps the highest approval rating in the league among his peers … Makar said he had never been booed before this. Now he might need to get used to it every time he returns to Seattle.”
Bryan Murphy, The Sporting News: “In a series that had been lacking the typical playoff physicality and intensity, Makar provided that bad blood … Cale Makar is now public enemy No. 1 in Seattle.”
Nick Cotsonika, NHL.com: “Asked if the Kraken had to take advantage of the Avalanche not having Makar in the lineup, (Kraken coach Dave) Hakstol said: ‘The game will be decided on the ice by the guys that are available, and that’s the bottom line.'”
Cheryl Pounder, TSN: “(Makar’s suspension) is too light. I thought he would get two. (McCann was in) a vulnerable spot, injury. He might have gotten a ‘Makar” one game off.'”
Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh columnist: “The NHL giving Cale Makar one game for this hit on Jared McCann should serve as your daily reminder that the NHL sucks.”
Eddie Olczyk, Root Sports: “That was a dangerous hit by Cale Makar. The puck was not anywhere near him. I don’t care that it was 10 feet in the air. That does not matter. That was a reckless hit.”
Eric Lacroix, Altitude TV: “McCann does get hurt, but Cale’s just finishing his play, finishing his check. I think the right call was made on the ice, two minutes for interference, as the hit was a bit late. I don’t see anything more than that. I do believe that’s the right call.”
Scottie Upshall, 16-year NHL forward: “It’s a dirty hit because there was no puck on the ice. I think it was (worthy of) a match penalty, because Jared McCann is hurt from a high interference hit. He’s not supposed to get hit there.”
Editor’s note: Karma’s a bear; besides picking up the suspension, Makar can be seen on his hands and knees as Jordan Eberle’s OT game winning goal goes right past him.