Johnny Gaudreau’s surprising return from a broken finger boosted the Calgary Flames in a big way.
Initially expected to be out until after Christmas, Gaudreau returned three weeks early in time for last night’s game against the Anaheim Ducks. He played on a line with Sam Bennett and Alex Chiasson. Wearing a newly-reinforced glove, Gaudreau scored on his first shot on his first shift, on his way to a two-point night in an 8-3 beatdown of the Ducks.
He also assisted on Chiasson’s second period goal, which was the second of three goals the Flames scored in just 1:27 to go up 4-1. Gaudreau played just thirty seconds less than his season-average, so there doesn’t appear to be much rust on him, despite missing just under three weeks.
The Ducks were playing their second game in two nights, having lost to the Oilers in overtime the night before. After John Gibson allowed three goals in the overtime loss to the Oilers, Jonathan Bernier was left in for all eight goals against the Flames. Post-game, Ducks coach Randy Carlyle was very specific when explaining decision by saying Gibson had a very specific flu-symptom and couldn’t go in the game.
Speaking of the Oilers, there was some minor controversy in their Sunday night OT loss to the Minnesota Wild. During the second period, Connor McDavid was tripped by Jared Spurgeon and hit his mouth on the ice. He briefly held his mouth, checking for blood, and then got back up and played the next shift. The Wild took another penalty, and McDavid jumped over the boards for the five-on-three, but was pulled from the game by the league’s concussion spotters. He missed the last six minutes of the second period and then returned for the third with no ill effects.
The normally reserved McDavid was vocal about his disappointment after the game. “I was pretty shocked, to be honest. I hit my mouth on the ice. You reach up and grab your mouth when you get hit in the mouth; it’s a pretty normal thing.”
“Obviously the spotter thought he knew how I was feeling. He pulled me off. A s**tty time of the game too. We had a bit of a partial five-on-three and then a power play late in the second game that if we had capitalized on that, it could have changed the game.”
The Oilers as a whole were upset about the decision, with Patrick Maroon and Milan Lucic being upset about it because it was clear that there were no averse symptoms. Lucic told Spector that he understands the liability issue, but was still upset that the Oilers “best player [wasn’t] out there… because he got hit in the mouth.”
Oilers fans were frustrated by the decision, because the previous night’s win over the Ducks saw shutdown center Ryan Kesler hit his head and stay down until a whistle was blown while he was penalty-killing. However, he got up and stayed out there for the rest of the penalty kill. Kesler does have a reputation for diving, but there still appears to be a disconnect between different spotters and what level of impact is required to pull a player.
Spector raises one last question about the incident, asking why neither 6’3, 217 lb Zack Kassian nor 6’4, 211 lb Kurtis Gabriel were pulled out for testing after spending a minute punching each other in the head. Spector believes if the NHL is serious about checking on its players’ brains, they should start checking players after fights.