Monday, 29 April 2019

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

Esa Lindell is a highly-talented Finnish defenceman who plays for the Dallas Stars. He had his best season to date this season where he played all 82 games and tallied 11 goals and 21 assists while helping Dallas make the playoffs and, eventually, helping the Stars dismiss the Nashville Predators in six games. Lindell isn't a little guy as he stands 6'3" tall and tips the scales at 215 lbs. so he has some size to him as well. The problem is that tonight's performance by Lindell looked like he could have been knocked over by a stiff breeze with how many times he ended up on the ice.

With the Blues leading 2-1 late in the second period, a scrum ensued to the right of Jordan Binnington. On the outside of said scrum was Esa Lindell and St. Louis' Robert Bortuzzo who also engaged in their own battle for position on the ice. As with any scrum, Bortuzzo used the stick to push Lindell to create some separation, and, well, you be the judge on what Lindell is doing here.
Remember, Lindell is 6'3" tall and 215 lbs! While I get that Bortuzzo is a strong guy himself, the fact that he knocked Lindell down with some pushing that we've all seen in these playoffs to date only served to enrage Bortuzzo further who delivered a second push before pleading his case to the observing official. The official, not wanting either player to get away with their actions, whistled Bortuzzo for cross-checking and Lindell for embellishment. Bortuzzo, now incensed that he was given a penalty, hammers Lindell in the chest with a true cross-check.

The second cross-check was likely the most egregious of the embellishment, and I'm glad the referee hit Lindell with the infraction. It's good game management on his part to try and diffuse the situation by sending both players off despite Bortuzzo's objections, but had he only sent Bortuzzo off I imagine things may have escalated further. Either way, it should be noted that the official likely wasn't going to give Lindell any benefit of the doubt going forward after he was already slapped with an embellishment penalty.

Why is that important, you ask?

With 1:38 to go in the game and the teams tied at 3-3, this happened.
Patrick Maroon's goal was made possible by the fact that he pushed Esa Lindell down in front of the net, allowing a wide-open Maroon to collect the puck from behind the net, pull it to the front of the net, and fire home the game-winning goal. Esa Lindell? He was still recovering from Maroon's push that knocked him down on the opposite side of the net, giving Maroon all the space he needed to score. Do you think the official took a quick second to see who got knocked down before signalling a good goal on Maroon's shot?

If there's one thing that officials hate more than anything, it's a player showing him or her up. Embellishment should never be used as a way to gain an advantage because it makes the officials look bad, and they're trying to be as objective as possible. Just like the boy who cried wolf, if one gains a reputation for embellishing plays that result in the other team being penalized, it will become apparent that less calls will go one's way. Call it karma or whatever, but Lindell wasn't getting the call for Maroon pushing him after he fell flat on his face so easily earlier in the game.

Had Lindell stayed on his feet, perhaps Maroon gets penalized for interference if that push was hard enough to knock Lindell off. Perhaps Lindell stays with Maroon, and he never gets the chance to take the shot because of Lindell's defensive positioning. Whatever the next sequence may have been, we'll never know because Esa Lindell cried wolf one too many times in this game, and the result is a 2-1 series lead for the St. Louis Blues thanks to Patrick Maroon's game-winning goal.

I don't know if Esa Lindell was familiar with Aesop before this game, but I imagine he's very familiar with the lessons taught in his fables now.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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