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Saturday, 1 June 2013

Is There Any Standard?

I know that there are extreme fines that the NHL hands out for players and coaches who criticize the officials. I know they can't speak out about calls that were, or were not, made in games without that heavy punishment being handed down. Because I am, in no way, affiliated with any NHL team, I'll speak for them in terms of how horrific the officiating has been throughout these playoffs thus far in terms of trying to find a standard and sticking with it. There have been games where anything short of killing a guy has been overlooked, and there have been calls that could have significantly altered the outcome of a game where you'd think that officials would have used a little common sense. I have a lot of respect for the officials and the job they do, so what gives with how the games are being called in these playoffs? Why has the standard set in the regular season fallen off so noticeably?

Tonight's travesty included a couple of checks from behind that had such widely differing results to either team that one could almost suggest that some favoritism was being used. I'll repeat that: ALMOST. It would be ludicrous for me to suggest that officials would want to see one team prevail over another, but I cannot understand how similar plays result in such significantly different calls.

We'll start with the Matt Cooke hit on Adam McQuaid. Clearly, Matt Cooke leaned into McQuaid's numbers, and that's a hitting-from-behind penalty by definition. Here's the hit.
Cooke's hit is a textbook case of hitting from behind, and McQuaid was shaken up on the play despite McQuaid peeking over his shoulder to see who was coming in on the forecheck. Cooke received a five-minute major for checking from behind and a game misconduct for delivering that hit. McQuaid went to the dressing room for a few minutes, but returned to play his regular shift for the remainder of the game. The key? The standard has been set for the players in terms of knowing what will get you five-and-a-game for hitting a player's numbers.

Just before the end of the second period, James Neal dumped a puck in with thoughts of heading to the bench when Brad Marchand decided to help him out. Here's the video.
While Neal got up and appeared to be fine, Marchand was given a five-minute major for checking from behind and a game misconduct two minutes for boarding on the play.

EXCUSE ME?!?

How is it that Cooke can be excused from the game for pasting a guy into the boards and glass from behind, but Marchand is only given a couple of minutes to think about his sin despite Neal's face coming dangerously close to smashing into the dasher and his shoulder taking the majority of the impact with the boards?!? Which hit, I ask you, is far more dangerous?

I'm not saying that Cooke shouldn't have been penalized as he was because, as stated above, he threw a textbook definition of a hit from behind. But Marchand only getting two minutes when he used both forearms across Neal's #18 to drive Neal into the boards while Neal was in an extremely vulnerable position? Do the referees in this game have any pride in their work when you look at both of these examples? If you call Cooke for five-and-a-game, Marchand's hit cannot be anything but five-and-a-game based upon the danger he put James Neal in with his hit!

Of course, knowing that I'm a Penguins fan, you're probably thinking, "Teebz, you're just complaining because your team lost". Actually, that line of thinking is about as far as you can get. Had the roles been reversed and Neal laid Marchand out with a hit like that and only got two for boarding, I'd be just as incensed.

The players are trying to play within the rules set out by the officials as they are the ones who interpret the rulebook within the game. When a standard has been set in terms of a major call like a five-and-a-game boarding call, that's the standard the players adhere to for the remainder of the game.

"But Teebz," you say, "what if the officials didn't see Marchand hit Neal as seen in the video?" Seriously? They can't see Marchand using both arms across Neal's back while in a vulnerable position as he's shooting the puck into the Boston zone? What the heck are they watching then? No, I don't buy that either, and neither should you.

All I know is that the officiating standards from the regular season to the playoffs have dropped off considerably. I have kept pretty silent about it simply because it's playoff hockey, and players know they have to fight for every inch of space out there. But when you put one team down a man with a call while allowing the other team to escape the same punishment for an arguably worse hit, that's when something needs to be said.

The officiating in the playoffs thus far has been horsepoop. There, I said it. I said it for everyone who was thinking it. I said it for the players and coaches and GMs who have been frustrated by it. And I'll say it again later this week when we'll be discussing it on this week's edition of The Hockey Show as well.

Horsepoop, kids. Write it down.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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