CALGARY – Mark Giordano was visibly shaken by the turn of events.
No, not by the meaningless loss, but by the play he made that left the game’s best player in a season-ending heap behind the Calgary Flames net.
“I feel terrible,” said the Flames captain of a second period collision with Connor McDavid that finished with the Oilers star clutching his left knee and appearing to say, “it’s broken.”
“Obviously with the result being what it is, if I had to do it all over again I’d almost rather see myself let him go and not injure him. It’s easy to say after the fact.”
With a McDavidian head of speed, the Oilers star went wide around Giordano at the Flames blue line and appeared to have a step on the Norris Trophy frontrunner as he cut towards the net. Giordano dove to take a swipe at the puck, missed and his body took McDavid down, sending them both crashing into Mike Smith and the net. Giordano was assessed a tripping minor on the play, while McDavid immediately grabbed below his left knee while help was summoned from the bench.
Giordano said he tried immediately to see how McDavid was doing, but to no avail.
“I was trying to ask him right away but he was in a lot of pain there, so he wasn’t saying much,” said Giordano, who later tried asking several Oilers how their captain was doing.
“I mean, you’re not going to get much from them, they’re pretty mad about it and I understand that.
“I honestly thought I could get that puck when I dove for it and watching the replay I missed it and my stick kind of trips him. You never want to see (that)… he’s obviously the best player in the game, so we need him in the game.”
McDavid left the game, had X-rays that the club said were negative, and then was spotted leaving the rink on crutches, his left knee heavily bandaged.
“I’ll ask again and hopefully get an answer to see if he’s doing alright,” said Giordano, a hard-nosed, driven, honest player, just like McDavid.
“Hopefully it’s better than it looked, because it looked like he wasn’t doing well there. I’m not trying to make a dirty play there – just playing the one-on-one really.”
Several Oilers confirmed Giordano’s belief they were fuming, saying Giordano should have known better than to dive.
“I don’t think it’s intentional, but I think Connor has a step and I don’t think it’s necessary for him to try to whack his legs like that,” said Nugent-Hopkins, whose club won 3-1 to wrap up their 12th of 13 seasons out of the playoffs.
“When Connor goes by you you’re not going to catch him. That’s the way it is. I think Gio should know that. He does know that, but I don’t think it’s intentional. I don’t think he wants to hurt the guy.”
Leon Draisaitl, who gave Oilers fans in attendance a thrill with his 50th goal of the season, agreed.
“It’s a tough play – I don’t think he necessarily meant to hurt him,” he said.
“It’s a quick play. He comes in with so much speed. Maybe if you’re beat in the last game of the season maybe pull back a little bit, but again I understand that he wasn’t trying to hurt him.”
To that point, perhaps McDavid shouldn’t have been as hellbent on cutting to the net as he was, given his season was to end in 40 minutes.
It’s not about assigning blame.
These things happen in hockey.
The injury put a damper on an otherwise meaningless final game of the regular season for both clubs.
Fans hoped to see Johnny Gaudreau crack the 100-point plateau, but after a first period assist, he fell one point short.
Minutes before his assist, the Flames’ first round opponent was determined by virtue of a Dallas Stars win leaving Colorado as the second wild card.
The Flames swept the Avalanche in their three-game series this season, making it a favourable matchup on paper.
Yet, before the Avs lost Saturday, they were 8-0-2 their last ten games.
Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk were held out of the lineup, but Mike Smith started to give fans yet another indication he’ll be the go-to guy when the Flames open the playoffs.