By Stu Hackel
RDS's Renaud Lavoie tweeted late Monday morning that the first reports on Vinny Lecavalier's eye are good and there doesn't seem to be any damage other than the cuts he suffered on Sunday night. Fans of the Lightning -- and, really, all fans -- are holding their breath as Tampa Bay's captain undergoes an eye examination after being hit by an accidental high stick from the Blackhawks' Michael Frolik in the second period (see video above).
UPDATE: The Lightning tweeted minutes after this was posted that, "Lecavalier has no structural damage to his right eye. He will be a game-time decision tomorrow and is day-to-day."
Lecavalier was shown bleeding on the bench before he was escorted to the dressing room. This is the third incident within a month of a potentially serious eye injury. The career-threatening one suffered by Vancouver's Manny Malhotra has already required more than one surgical procedure. The Kings' Willie Mitchell also had a scare on March 3 when a puck hit him only centimeters away from his eye, opening a wound that stretched from his eyebrow to his cheek and required 54 stitches to close.
Lecavalier, who scored what turned out to be the game-winner in the first period, did not play again after being struck and left the United Center on Sunday night with a patch over his eye. He had problems seeing. Speaking to The St. Petersburg Times, Lightning Coach Guy Boucher speculated that the 12-year veteran may have a scratched cornea. Eye injuries haven't been a headline story in the NHL this season, but that doesn't mean they aren't serious. But NHL players are still reluctant to play with face shields -- either as a badge of bravery or because they believe a shield will inhibit their vision -- and they continue to say they want the right to choose, but it's a foolish decision. They all wore facial protection as amateurs, but those who discard it when they turn pro put themselves at unnecessary risk. Hockey players are creatures of habit and they'd almost certainly recoil at the thought of being forced to screw the shields back on their helmets.
When helmets were made mandatory 30 years ago, the NHL grandfathered bareheaded play for those currently in the league, but made headgear compulsory for all who entered after a certain date. It's time for something similar regarding visors to be considered by the NHL and NHLPA.
Tiebreakers loom: As the vacuum-tight playoff races head into the final week, there's a strong chance the NHL will have to use its new tie-breaking procedure that throws out shootout wins.
The Flyers and Capitals, for example, are currently tied atop the Eastern Conference, but Philly is ahead via the tiebreaker by having gained one more point from regulation and overtime wins than Washington. In the wild West, the five teams between fourth and eighth are separated by four points (the Flames are in ninth, one point behind the Blackhawks), but the Ducks are in the best shape with the most regulation and overtime wins (40) in this group.
Not being a fan of the shootout, this space is fine with anything that minimizes its importance in the scheme of things. It remains disquieting and revealing that the NHL would compromise its hard-fought, competitive nature and allow regular season games to be decided by a gimmick, then not resort to the shootout when the games mean the most: in the playoffs. That's showbiz. It's not hockey.
We'll have to wait until next Sunday to see if the tiebreakers come into use, but after wins-minus-shootout-victories, the next tie breakers are:
1.) The greater number of points earned in games between the tied clubs (and that comes with these qualifications: If two clubs are tied, and have not played an equal number of home games against each other, points earned in the first game played in the city that had the extra game shall not be included. If more than two clubs are tied, the highest percentage of available points earned in games among those clubs, not including any "odd" games, shall be used to determine the standing.)
2.) If teams are still tied, the greater differential between goals-for and goals-against during the entire regular season.
Got all that? Good, because you're the only one.