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Posts Tagged ‘officiating’

I’m not sure why Michel Therrien is so ticked off, especially after a game in which the referees did not hesitate to blow the whistle when Crosby hit the ice, but he had some interesting comments for the Rangers today.

“And where I’m kind of disappointed is that there’s gamesmanship before the series about Sidney drawing penalties. And I’m disappointed. I’m kind of disappointed about that.”

“And we all know what Tom Renney’s trying to do. He tried to do it before we started the series. He tried to do it last night, I saw his comments today. He’s trying to get attention to the referees and complaining about the penalty last night at the end of the game.”

“[Sidney’s] not going to go to the outside. That’s the way he is. He’s not going to take the easy road. He’s going to take the tough road and try to succeed. And yesterday, on that play, he had a step on [Straka] and if he didn’t get hooked, we’re probably going to go on a breakaway. And he drew a penalty.”

I’m pretty confused about that last part. I’m not sure what Therrien was watching if he thought Sid was going to end up on a breakaway on that play. Gomez made a great recovery to dive and sweep the puck away from Hossa, and the penalty was called well behind the play. If no penalty was called, the play would have continued with the Rangers in possession of the puck.

As for Therrien’s claim that Renney is trying to draw the refs attention, well, I have to wonder what Therrien is reading. Renney has been pretty quiet on the subject and today he refused to respond to what Therrien said.

Brendan Shanahan, however, did respond. “I haven’t read the papers today but I feel like the only thing our team did last night was defend Martin Straka. . . We certainly didn’t come into the room and throw down our equipment and say we got hosed by the refs. So I’m kind of surprised that Therrien’s making a big issue today. I’m actually really surprised. But if he wants to bring the referee’s attention to it, that’s fine.”

I’m not a psychologist, but do you think Therrien might be feeling a little guilty?

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Watching that game, I felt like I had just been punched in the gut. Recapping it feels like something not as bad as passing a kidney stone but not as good as slipping on an icy sidewalk and cracking your head. I also have a massive hangover, so I’ll try to keep this short.

It would be easy to blame the referees for some of the Rangers problems, but let’s be honest, the Rangers defense looked terrible. The Penguins were faster and caused about 10,000 turnovers in the defensive and neutral zones. The Rangers need to be more confident with the puck and, as my Canadian college hockey coach would say, they also need to stop treating the puck like a “hot potato.” There were stretches where 3 or 4 shifts went by with the puck spending 90% of the time in the Rangers zone. The other 10% consisted of the Rangers softly dumping the puck to be picked up by the Pens defense in the neutral zone and rushed back towards the overwhelmed Rangers defense and the suddenly vulnerable Lundqvist… not exactly a winning strategy.

Still, the Rangers managed to build a 3 goal lead… only to see it disappear in about the time it takes my buddy Spivack to pound an Irish car bomb. But I digress.

And you know what, while I’m on a roll, I think I will complain about the officiating. My problem is that it was inconsistent, and it has been throughout the playoffs (not just in Rangers games). Sometimes it looks like a classic playoff hockey game, with the refs swallowing the whistle to allow 2 elite teams to really play some hard-nosed hockey. But, at other times, the refs suddenly decide to call the game like its a November matchup between Tampa Bay and Atlanta. It’s completely inexplicable and there’s no way to know when they make this transition. It’s almost like the refs slip into their usual playoff mode for a chunk of the game until they realize, “oh crap… If I want to keep my job, I better start calling penalties.” The result is the weak penalty called on Martin Straka at a crucial point of the game. 3 minutes left in a tie game and you call that? Really?!? The same thing happened in Montreal on Thursday. No penalties for a while, then they call a questionable one and change the outcome of the game. Why is it so difficult for the NHL to let these guys play 5-on-5? [I’ll be right back. I have to go slam my head against the wall for 10 minutes]

[Okay, I’m back]. Here’s what Brendan Shanahan said. “I think it’s a weak call at that time in the game. Sidney embellished and you could make the call that he was interfering with Martin Straka. . . I think it was a tough call for the referee to make at that time in the game.” Ding ding ding.

Oh, and one more thing… Jarkko Ruutu is a [expletive deleted]. Now I know how other teams feel about Sean Avery. There’s no doubt that Ruutu waving his stick in Rozsival’s face during a faceoff should have been an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Maybe I’m missing something, but didn’t they just make a rule about that? The ref went over and actually pushed Ruutu’s stick down but didn’t call a penalty! What’s up with that? Then he scored. I have to go slam my head against the wall again. See you tomorrow.

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Someone asked me why I didn’t comment on the officiating of yesterday’s game. Well, the answer is that, in general, I don’t like to complain about the refs. They usually do a decent job and it’s a cop-out to blame them for the outcome of a game.

And while I wasn’t thrilled with the way the game was called yesterday, I don’t think it was as horrible as some people have been saying. Calls were going both ways. The only call, or non-call I should say, that really bothered me was when Bryce Salvador was holding Avery down to the ice as the play went the other way. Salvador had pretty much put his knee into Avery’s back and pinned him to the ice. The ref was right there but didn’t call the penalty. And if you think that non-call is not related in any way to Avery’s antics in game 3, you’re crazy.

Plus, any ref who calls a diving penalty on Brodeur is OK with me. Now, if you could just explain to me how they called a goalie interference penalty on the same play, we’ll be all set. There. I complained about the reffing. Happy?

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What does Sean Avery have in common with Rob Ray, Trent Tucker, and Roy Williams?

In a reaction to Avery’s actions in a game, which were completely within the rules at the time, the NHL has changed its rules! As reported at ESPN.com, the NHL has issued a directive that changes the interpretation of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, effective immediately, to include the following situation:

“When an offensive player positions himself facing the opposition goaltender and engages in actions such as waving his arms or stick in front of the goaltender’s face, for the purpose of improperly interfering with and/or distracting the goaltender as opposed to positioning himself to try to make a play.”

Allow me to put on my goalie pads for a second and say that if I was in net, I would have punched Avery directly in the face. This rule is probably an attempt by the NHL to prevent actions that they don’t approve of from becoming widespread.

Now, let me put on my lawyer pants for a second. The key phrase in that directive is “for the purpose of improperly interfering with.” That simple phrase says 2 important things. 1) The refs now have to discern a purpose from the player’s actions before they can call a penalty, and 2) the NHL thought Avery’s actions were “improper”.

In general, I am opposed to additional rule-making. Is it the job of the league office to arbitrarily decide what is the proper way to play hockey? As the rule says, if a player is face-guarding the goalie, he is not in position to make a play. Therefore, players have a choice. On the one hand, they can face-guard and distract the goalie (and perhaps this distraction is more effective than a traditional screen). But in doing so, he takes himself out of the play. Given this choice, is the rule really necessary?

The NHL is essentially saying that they think Avery’s creative play was extremely effective — so effective that it would catch on in the NHL if no rule was enacted — and would alter the product on the ice. I don’t think many players would opt for that kind of positioning, but if a player wants to sacrifice position, it should be his choice.

Hockey is a beautiful sport because of its fluidity. Unlike basketball and football, the referees in hockey play a minimal role in the game play. I think the NHL front office should take a similar stance and let the game develop naturally.

If you didn’t see the play, check out the video on youtube.

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