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Bracket updates and a take on the offsides call from Game 1

Checking in on the playoff results so far, and about a controversial goal from last night’s Edmonton/Colorado game

Edmonton Oilers v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

How is everyone’s bracket looking?

We had a pretty good turnout of 219 completed entrees on the NHL Pensburgh bracket challenge, and your humble editor is fourth as of now! I’m 10-2 overall in the series to date — missing out on Carolina/Boston and Florida/Tampa.

Reports are saying they’re calling me “Mr. Western Conference” after going 6-0 in the first two rounds on that side of the bracket (note: no one has actually called me this). But it still feels good, and if the prognostications hold it will be Colorado advancing to the Stanley Cup Final.

The biggest unforeseen call that has tripped me up was Florida getting swept in the second round, I had them going all the way to the Stanley Cup Final for a 1996 rematch against the Avs. Unfortunately for myself and many others, Andrei Vasilievskiy had other plans in that series.

The top three current predictors have nailed all four of the last remaining teams correctly, with Colorado being a very popular predicted champion. Of current Pensburgh players in the top 15, only two have Tampa winning and one a piece have Edmonton and the Rangers winning it all, with the overwhelming majority seeing Nathan MacKinnnon’s crew getting to the title.

Last night’s Game 1 of Edmonton/Colorado absolutely lived up to expectations for a frantic, skill-fest of epic proportions what ended up as a 8-6 Avalanche win. It was not for the faint of heart with neutral zone breakdowns going the other way — quickly — and often ending up in the back of the net. One big moment and turning point was late in the first period, when turbo-charged defenseman Cale Makar jumped up and scored a goal that sure looked like it was off-sides.

Elliote Friedman did a good job of explaining the “tag up” off-side and some other similar examples of like situations, but the rule itself may just be not straight forward enough.

The NHL’s official statement was:

It was determined that Colorado’s Valeri Nichushkin legally tagged up at the blue line before Cale Makar entered the offensive zone with the puck on his stick. Makar made contact with the puck in the offensive zone after Nichushkin was in an on-side position.

Maybe some karma in play for the Oilers being the beneficiary of a close call on the Blake Coleman ruled no-goal for kicking in Game 5 against the Flames...But it still is a situation where the NHL feels like it is over-complicating and interpreting rules on the fly, when the linesman very easily would have routinely blown that play dead on the ice in other identical plays that happen so quickly and the other player is so far from getting to tag up when the puck is in the zone.

A big frustration for fans — particularly on judgement calls like goaltender interference reviews — is that when a play gets video reviewed, no one really has any idea what the end result and ruling is going to be. On TNT, “rules analyst” Don Koharski very confidently explained that Makar’s goal was not legal and would not count after the review. He was wrong. (And he doesn’t really have the best batting average on TV this playoff in explaining and predicting what the rule interpretation will be). That’s not to pick on Koharski, because even for a former NHL official and a supposed now “expert”, how the hell can anyone really predict just what the verdict coming back is going to be in that moment and on that day?

It’s about impossible, and the crazy rules and cloudy (and dare we say inconsistent) rule interpretation can be one of the more maddening parts of NHL hockey, aside from a player running around and elbowing everyone drawing breath in the opposing uniform.

All in all, based on the explanation it looks like the right ruling was made. But for Edmonton, it probably still doesn’t feel that way a day later.