Who are the M.V.P. candidates for the San Jose Sharks so far in these playoffs? Well, there’s Logan Couture, who has 14 goals. Erik Karlsson has 13 assists. Martin Jones is 10-6 in goal with a 2.89 goals-against average.
But consider this leading candidate: the referees. San Jose has been the lucky recipient of at least three big calls or noncalls, one in each of its series, most recently on Wednesday night.
The team’s good fortune began in Game 7 of the first round of the N.H.L. playoffs, against the Vegas Golden Knights. With 10 minutes to play and San Jose on the brink of elimination, down by 3-0, Joe Pavelski was crosschecked by Cody Eakin of Vegas. Pavelski hit the ice hard and was knocked unconscious.
The referees decided the hit was worth a five-minute major and a game misconduct. The Golden Knights did not agree.
“They called five minutes for that?” forward Jonathan Marchessault told The Associated Press. “Call the two, O.K., but a five?
“It’s a joke, that’s what it is. It’s embarrassing.”
The call might well have been forgotten were it not for the Sharks’ taking advantage of the situation by scoring four goals during the five-minute man advantage, and eventually winning the game and series in overtime.
The Sharks’ second-round series against the Colorado Avalanche also went to a Game 7, and again San Jose benefited from a call.
The Sharks led, 2-1, in the second period when the Avalanche apparently equalized on a goal by Colin Wilson. The Sharks challenged the goal, though, and after a review, it was disallowed. The reason? Gabriel Landeskog of the Avalanche, who was exiting the ice at the end of his shift, was technically still in the offensive zone when the goal-scoring move began.
The Sharks went on to win again.
“I was just as surprised as anybody,” Landeskog told The Denver Post. “We saw some replays on the bench, and from what we saw, it could have gone either way.”
Wednesday night wasn’t another Game 7, but the Sharks did benefit from the referees’ actions. With the series tied at one game each, Game 3 went to overtime.
With five minutes elapsed, Timo Meier used his hand to knock the puck toward the net. After a pass by Gustav Nyquist and a shot by Karlsson, the Sharks scored and took the win. There was no call on the apparent illegal hand pass. Meier even picked up an assist for his trouble.
“No explanation,” Blues Coach Craig Berube said. “What do you guys think? There’s no reason to ask me. I have nothing to say about it.”
“I think we deserved to win this game,” Karlsson told The Associated Press. “At the end of the day, I think neither team drew the shortest stick on any of the calls out there, so it was a fair game.”
The N.H.L.’s series director, Kay Whitmore said of the play: “You can read between the lines. You can figure out what you want. You watched the video. But it’s just non-reviewable. I know that sounds like a cop-out answer, but that’s the truth.”
Three playoff rounds, three beneficial calls or noncalls for the Sharks. With a two-games-to-one lead in the conference finals, they are in pole position for a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, as well. One more key call going their way, and they will get the grand slam.
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