Sidney Crosby, Scott Darling and embellishment (Puck Daddy Countdown)

(In which Ryan Lambert takes a look at some of the biggest issues and stories in the NHL, and counts them down.)

6 – Embellishment

Oh are we mad about embellishment again? Like it’s this huge problem that is insanely bad and everyone has to have a concrete opinion on exactly how bad it is that it even exists, let alone happens, in playoff games.

Maybe Nick Bonino embellished that high stick. Maybe he didn’t. I honestly don’t care either way.

This is the same dumbass argument you have about soccer — particularly with dullards who don’t watch soccer but want something to complain about anyway — all the time. Everyone embellishes. All the time. Almost every penalty comes with at least some small amount of embellishment intended to really get everyone to notice that, hey, this guy committed a penalty here.

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And if we accept that literally everyone does it, then why do we care when someone does it in what turns out to be an important moment? Only because of that important moment. If Bonino embellishes and draws a penalty, then nothing happens? We’re not talking about it days later.

Honestly, one of the dumbest things you hear about embellishment is along the lines of “Well it makes the refs look bad.” Bruh, have you watched these playoffs? The refs look bad most nights because they’re not particularly good at calling the rules as written once it gets to be April 15 or so.

There’s a really easy way for refs to crack down on embellishment if they really want to: Call it every time they see it, not just when it’s over-the-top egregious. It shouldn’t take a guy throwing both skates up and doing a front flip on a tripping penalty to get whistled for the embellishment.

And god, if I ever have to hear another, “How is it embellishment if it’s a high stick?” argument I’m lose it. You can take a high stick to the face and still act like you took a bullet instead. This isn’t hard.

5 – They Saved Crosby’s Brain

Oh, speaking of avoidable dumb stuff the NHL does, how about literally everything to do with Crosby coming back from the concussion he got earlier in the series, and then hitting his head really hard and not missing a shift?

That all seems incredibly dumb and avoidable, doesn’t it?

It’s not to do with the whole “this league should protect its stars!” thing. Honestly, if frickin’ Tanner Glass got a concussion then took a header into the boards in his next game back, I’d want him fully evaluated.

Everything you need to know about how little the NHL actually cares about this stuff is in that Bill Daly quote about what is and isn’t a “mechanism of injury.” Concussion spotters can’t pull a guy off the ice if he goes headfirst into the boards — let alone it being two games after he gets a concussion — because the league doesn’t think that’s how guys get concussions? Are we sure everyone in the NHL’s head office isn’t operating with an ongoing traumatic head injury as well?

Let’s be honest: It’s kinda gross and scary Crosby’s back so quickly, given his history, in the first place. Of course he feels like he’s good to go. It’s the damn playoffs against one of his team’s biggest rivals. What’s he gonna say? He doesn’t feel up to it? Crosby of all people is probably one of those “cheats at solitaire” hyper-competitive people. That’s a big part of what makes him Sidney Crosby.

All of this is really idiotic, I must say. The league can absolutely do more to protect the players than it has or seemingly will, and it’s just like, “Well look we don’t think Cactus Jack hitting Crosby in the head with a barbwire baseball bat is something that leads to concussions. What are we supposed to do?”

Great thought process.

4 – The Darling trade

Have to say this is the kind of trade I thought the Hurricanes would be wise to make last summer, but in retrospect I understand the thought process behind not-doing it then. Especially because it’s arguable that Darling has a bit of a better track record (without the injury concerns) than did James Reimer, who probably would have been the big target for the ‘Canes last season with a similar trade.

With Darling, the stats are certainly there, and given that he won’t be 29 until December, the four-year terms sounds about right. Since the Hurricanes aren’t going to be a cap team, the number doesn’t matter even a little bit.

Now, you can also say the numbers were there for Eddie Lack (albeit to a lesser extent), and look how that worked out. But this was a gamble worth taking. The clock has just about run out on Cam Ward — can’t say they didn’t give him one last shot — and the Hurricanes have very little in the way of goaltending in the pipeline.

So what else were they supposed to do? Darling was the best available goalie by a mile, and the reason you stockpile picks is so that you can use them to gain an edge on the competition, either at the draft or as trading chips. The ‘Canes gave up a third-round pick, sure, but they had five picks in the first three rounds last year, and they still have all three this year.

If that gets you your goalie-of-the-near-future before he hits the open market, that’s just good work.

3 – The up-and-down Oilers

The Oilers’ goals-for and goals-against totals in these playoffs are all over the map. It’s hilarious.

Goals for by game: 2, 2, 3, 0, 4, 3, 5, 2, 3, 3, 3, 7.

Goals against by game: 3, 0, 0, 7, 3, 1, 3, 1, 6, 4, 4, 1.

Say what you want about these Oilers, but at least they’re always gonna surprise you.

2 – Games 7? Game 7s? Neither one sounds right now

Well folks, we’re finally getting them. After the first round had exactly zero series go seven games — what a bummer — there are two in the second round.

I love it. That’s extremely good. Finally some damn drama.

1 – Blowing it!!!!

Which, bless up to the dang Caps/Pens series.

Three games of “THE CAPS ARE BLOWING THIS!” Two games of “THE PENS ARE BLOWING THIS!” It’s amazing.

The argument that the Caps were blowing it is, of course, that they were the best team in the league again this season, and they always lose in the second round, and this time they didn’t even have the handicap of facing a full-strength Pittsburgh squad.

The argument, now, for the Pens blowing it is that they were up 3-1 and, despite all their injuries, they are not closing it out.

The difference is that when the Caps blow it, everyone gets to cast blame all over the place. Ovechkin! Holtby! Trotz! Shattenkirk!

When the Pens blow it? “Ah well, they were all so injured anyway.”

You can probably guess who the NBC Sports people are rooting for, and why, for sure.

(Not ranked this week: Is that all there is?

A function of all these playoff series ending quicker than usual is that there are a lot fewer games to watch. We should feel extremely robbed. Damn the Predators and their ability to vaporize teams in these playoffs! Curse those handsome devils!)

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)