Last night’s game ended on one of the most difficult notes. All through the game I was enjoying the Montreal Canadiens’ style of play, trying to think of pithy opening lines to this article. But after the hit on Jake Evans, all I can come up with is this:
This just sucks.
In hindsight, Mark Scheifele should have been given a more stiff sentence when he cross-checked Ben Chiarot in the face while Chiarot was on the ice with 6:48 left on the clock in the third period. Maybe that all-important yet arbitrarily enforced code should have come into play.
But who could blame Montreal? It’s late in a game and you have a lead. And the one thing you shouldn’t do when you have a lead is engage in the shenanigans.
Either way, it was obvious that the game was slipping away from the Winnipeg Jets. And it was obvious that Scheifele was on the verge of making a terrible decision. In hockey, sports, and life, you sometimes just lose. And it’s unfortunate that this incident will leave such a deep scar in our memories of what was otherwise an incredible victory by the Canadiens.
To say that Evans was having himself a game would be an understatement. At five-on-five he had a 68.4% Corsi-for percentage. That’s good for second amongst forwards on the Habs. Last night, in all situations, Montreal controlled 52% of the shot attempts, but the most impressive part was controlling 62% of the expected goals for (xGF%).
He also got that number the hard way. The defence pairing he played against the most was of Josh Morrissey and Neal Pionk, Winnipeg’s top pair with Dylan DeMelo out with an early injury. The forward he played the most against was Scheifele, Winnipeg’s top centre. All of this while starting most of his shifts outside of the offensive zone.
It’s understandable, after playing that way, that he would frustrate his opponent, but there is no place for this response in the game, and no excuse either. All we can hope for is that Evans, who has a history of concussion, suffers no long-term effects, and that the book is thrown at Scheifele for a hit so disgusting that it’s reminiscent of the Tie Domi elbowing incident.