It took less than six minutes of action for controversy to fall upon the Calgary Flames/Winnipeg Jets best-of-five Qualifying Round series. On Saturday evening, the two teams met for Game 1 of the play-in, facing off in the final of five scheduled games throughout a busy Saturday of action.
A quick start from Winnipeg was wiped out at the 5:39 mark, as the Jets’ 2019-20 regular-season scoring leader Mark Scheifele went down awkwardly and needed significant help getting off the ice. Playing just 2:59 total seconds over three shifts, Scheifele left the game and did not return following a collision with Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk.
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Tkachuk – who also just so happened to be Calgary’s leading scoring through regulation play – skated over to Scheifele as he was being helped off the ice and appeared to offer some sort of apology before Winnipeg’s top-line centreman hobbled down the tunnel of Rogers Place.
“”I’m backchecking on him and it’s such an accident,” Tkachuk said in his post-game media availability. “I felt terrible from the result of it. I remember he was turning away. I just went in and my left skate had a little bit of the speed wobbles and I was moving probably too fast for myself and was going down and my leg just collided with it looked like it jammed him up. His body was going one way but the way I hit him his leg was going one way. I feel terrible.”
“He’s such a great guy. Just a top player in the league. It’s not good for the game when somebody like that isn’t in the game,” Tkachuk added. “It was very unfortunate and unlucky and such an accident and I feel terrible about it, but there’s really nothing that could’ve happened. He dumped it in and was going the other way and I was committed to my check and was kind of going down a little bit and had a little bit of the speed wobbles with the skate.”I heard something and looked back and felt terrible for him.”
Tkachuk’s response wasn’t exactly the way that Jets head coach Paul Maurice saw the play unfold.
“Oh, it was intentional,” Maurice said when asked of the incident. “It was a filthy, dirty kick to the back of the leg. You can’t see it on the program feed, but you take the blueline feed (which is only accessible by coaches, referees and the NHL review staff) and you zoom in, he went after the back of his leg. He could have cut his achilles. He could have ended the man’s career. It was an absolutely filty, disgusting act.”
Maurice, who has been known to speak his mind over the years, very well may have come off as more triggered in his availability due to the fact that he also lost forward Patrik Laine in the game due to a probable left hand/wrist injury. Or it very well could have been the fact that Winnipeg went 0/7 on the power play while giving up a shorthanded goal and two goals against during Flames man advantages.
“He could have cut his achilles. He could have ended the man’s career. It’s an absolutely filthy, disgusting hit.”
Paul Maurice did not hold back when talking about the Matthew Tkachuk-Mark Scheifele incident: pic.twitter.com/vRbmiv9u57
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) August 2, 2020
Although Tkachuk was not assessed a penalty on the play, nor did the video portrayed in the broadcast feed appear malicious in nature, if what Maurice said in his availability was true, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety will most definitely take a look at the blueline camera to see if Tkachuk did target Scheifele’s Achilles or appear to make intentional contact with the Jets forward prior to impact with the boards/ice.
Either way, as fans already witnessed in the form of a scrap between Jets captain Blake Wheeler and Tkachuk, hockey players do carry long memories. In a series set to go every second day, there need not be much of a trip in the mind of any Jet to recall the incident from Game 1 as the series progresses throughout the coming week.
Despite Winnipeg taking over as the ‘home team’ in games three and four, fans watching on television shouldn’t expect to hear any ‘virtual booing’ from within Edmonton’s Rogers Place each time Tkachuk touches the puck going forward, that is, unless the audio/visual team has updated its select crowd sounds to pump into the arena during play. Only time will tell.