Monday, April 28, 2008

Poor Matchups and Referee Mishaps Defining Playoffs (for me)

Could the matchups for the 2008 NHL playoffs be any worse than they are?

Those hoping for a Penguins/Flyers or Wild/Flames/Ducks first round matchups were instead treated to Penguins/Senators and Predators/Wings and Avs/Wild cards. Excuse me while I zonk out for those "doozies."

The Penguins throwing their last game of the regular season didn't help things much. Has anyone else seen so many open shots blatantly miss the net? I believe the tell-tale sign was six powerplays and a meager six shots on net? I recall reading that the NHL would be investigating the game. Something tells me that will drop off of the "to do" list considering the implications that could arise would not be good PR for the NHL.

On to Round 1 and what do you remember? Sean "$500 John" Avery legally waived his stick in Marty "Fatso" Brodeur's face, prompting Colin Campbell to create a new rule out of an old rule. Fatso didn't want to shake Avery's hand after the series either, another wise decision made by a role model of thousands of little kids (join the club Marty). Apparently this is becoming a trend. Brodeur isn't the only one not to shake hands in recent years. So don't lay all the blame on him. Tradition isn't only being killed by league leadership; certain players have been compelled to create new practices as well.

Side - note to the New Jersey Devils. Did you see the Penguins' response, notably Hal Gill and Georges Laraque, to Sean Avery sticking Fleury? You should have done the same. Too late.

What about the referees? They don't escape criticism. Althought I won't gripe too much about the Caps game seven loss to the Flyers, I will say that the Flyers' second goal was a carbon copy of a "goal" that was disallowed in Tampa a few weeks earlier. As a matter of fact, not only was the goal disallowed, the Capitals forward that pushed the Lightning player into their goalie was assessed a goaltender interference penalty.

And when I say carbon copy, I mean the exact same play with the exception of different players wearing different jerseys.

Which brings me to the topic of penalty standards. Has anyone else noticed that referees are calling things differently not only from game to game but period to period? While I am all for letting the players decide the game in overtime, standards have changed depending upon the score and who was assessed the last penalty. I thought the NHL was trying to eliminate his practice? If so, it isn't working. And it is a black eye for those that watch and, even more so, for those that know the game of hockey.

Funny side - apparently Gary Bettman and Colly Campbell nipped the "Avery New Rule" teeshirt in the bud at that last second, this after the NHL's marketing office, the NHLPA, and Avery approved the shirt. But Gary and Colly didn't find the humor in it. Ah, a league run by non-hockey guys with no sense of humor. You gotta love it. The NHL will be a better place when the league is run by someone with a touch of charisma.

So here we are in round two with the Pens/Rangers (finally a series worth watching), Canadians/Flyers (for the sake of the city of Montreal and it's police car inventory, the Flyers need to win this series), Stars/Sharks (please go home Joe - the Sharks are drastically boring to watch!), and the Wing/Avs (does anyone else wonder who the NHL is trying to fool by replaying the classic Wings/Avs brawls of the 90s? Newsflash, it isn't going to happen. You killed the possibility of rivalries with your new rules).

Play on. With the exception of poor matchups and penalty calling standards (there has been a lot of diving too!), the NHL playoffs are always fun to watch because of the players that leave it all on the ice night in and night out.

Update. It appears that I am not alone in my assessment of the refereeing. While I won't hammer the zebras, I will say that it is disappointing that they are constantly the center of attention.

All Things Avs - Horrible Refereeing
Here's a Start! Collie Campbell to Become Next Leaf's GM?
Ref Tells Straka to F Himself? Video Here.
Refs Under Fire in NHL Playoffs



1) Definitly something missing from the 'new NHL' when there are NO fights in Game 3 of the Flyer-Montreal series after the Kostopolis sucker punch of Timmonen in game 2
2) In the old days that would have resulted in at least a scrap or two making it all the more exciting to watch for even the non-Flyer/Hab fans out there.

Walt said...

Well you may not have gotten the matchups you wanted early on But I picked a Detroit vs Pittsburgh final which has all the makings of a great series. Crosby/ Malkin against Datsyuk/ Zetterberg. Throw in that they are the two best counter attack teams in the league and you have the makings of a very entertaining final that should prove to go at least six games.
Walt Webb
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