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One of the biggest moments in the Vegas Golden Knights 7-2 blowout win over the Florida Panthers in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final came when center Jack Eichel was annihilated at the Vegas blueline by Panthers star Matthew Tkachuk.
As violent as it looked — and was — Eichel conceded after the game that it was a clean hit.
The hit came with just a few minutes remaining in the second period. Eichel carried the puck out of Vegas’ zone, but as he approached the blue line, he received a physics lesson from Tkachuk.
The hit sent Eichel’s helmet flying and caused him to temporarily leave the game after hobbling to the bench. The ensuing scrum led to Tkachuk getting a two-minute minor for roughing plus his first of two 10-minute misconducts he has had in Game 2.
“I kind of toe-picked a little bit, I saw him at the last minute,” Eichel said, per Sportsnet. “He finishes what I saw was a clean check on me. It’s a physical game, you’re gonna get hit sometimes. Just kinda move on, you know?”
That’s a respectable way to handle the situation, no doubt made slightly easier by a 2-0 series lead.
Eichel did return to that game and even had an assist on a goal scored by former Panther Jonathan Marchessault early in the third.
Vegas is in the driver’s seat as the series heads to Florida. This begs the question, does Tkachuk, one of the most productive players this postseason need to think about altering his game?
Does Tkachuk Need To Retool His Game?
Matthew Tkachuk is a nightmare to play against in every conceivable way. However, through two games this series, his in-your-face style has not had the effect on Vegas that it had on Boston, Toronto or Carolina.
Tkachuk — who has one goal in this series — is phenomenal at getting under peoples’ skin and then making them pay. Lots of people love the way he plays the game (*raises hand*) and most of the time, it’s effective.
But here’s the problem: this isn’t working on Vegas.
The Golden Knights were the least penalized team in the regular season. In the Cup Final, they’re showing once again that they have some serious discipline.
Tkachuk’s efforts have landed him 36 penalty minutes through 2 games. While most of that time didn’t result in Vegas powerplays (due to matching minors or misconducts) it has kept his playing time down.
He was one of the most dangerous players all post-season for the Panthers. That means the team can’t afford to have him off the ice more than he needs to catch his breath and drink some Bio-Steel.
He averaged around 20 minutes on-ice in the regular season. 22 minutes in the postseason.
He logged 18 minutes in Game 1 and just 15 in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.
You’ve got to assume he knows this, and if he doesn’t Paul Maurice will probably get the message across.
Follow on Twitter: @Matt_Reigle