The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/02/13 at 03:18 AM ET
This may be one of the few times a Red Wings fan agrees with Sidney Crosby. I know this isn't Red Wings-related per se, but I've been outspoken in my criticism of the lack of a standard of officiating--for any and all of the NHL's teams and playoff teams to have to operate within since the trade deadline--and I'm baffled by the amount of cheap shots, interference and plain old dangerous stuff that they're letting go on all sides, and it's my blog, and I'm allowed to write about whatever I feel needs to be said. So I'm going to do just that.
Aside from calling stick-on-hand penalties and worrying far too much about evening things up via make-ups for missed or messed-up calls (see: Walkom calls off Hjalmarsson goal, Bolland boarding infraction yields series-winner that counts in OT, and every NHL analyst from TSN to Fox Sports Detroit's Ken Daniels agree that what Bolland did was a penalty but would never be called due to what transpired in regulation time), the refs are more or less "letting 'em play" to an extent that it's gotten downright silly.
During Saturday night's Penguins-Bruins game, the referees and linesmen stood around while more chirping than an aviary's worth of birds took place at the end of the second period, and it included hacks, whacks, slashes and eventually a fight between Evgeni Malkin and Patrice Bergeron of all people, as well as quite the stare-down and chirp-down between Crosby, Zdeno Chara and eventually Tuukka Rask, who Crosby got away with hacking before returning to the pile-up. What did the officials call? Offsetting minors for unsportsmanlike conduct to Rich Peverley and Chris Kunitz.
The Bruins roared to life in the third period, and that had Crosby wondering what the hell is legal and what's not after the game, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Shelly Anderson noted (and you may snicker along at the opening paragraph if you are not a Crosby fan):
Crosby, rarely one to publicly criticize officiating, said the way referees Chris Rooney and Brad Watson called the game contributed to the overflow of emotion.
"It's tough," Crosby said. "They're letting a lot go out there, and the more it gets like that, the more it's going to escalate. You can only control and channel that stuff so much. You keep letting guys do that stuff, you're just going to push the envelope. That's something we obviously want to stay away from, but it's kind of a natural thing when it gets like that."
Asked if it was also a matter of the Bruins trying to get under the Penguins' skin, Crosby didn't back down.
"I don't think [so]," he said. "I think it was just hard to gauge. Interference calls [made] where you barely catch a guy, and then you're allowing punches to the head and extra stuff. It's hard to get a gauge as a player. Are we going to play, or are we going to call those little things once in a while? It's hard to get a temperature on the game when that stuff is going on. Then you let a few of those go and everything starts getting out of hand. We've just got to focus on playing."
Now there were no saints on Saturday night, only sinners, and that's been the case for every scrum that's gone on both between and after the whistles, both during the regular season and especially during the playoffs, and most of the time, anything goes, though every once in a while, the refs call some offsetting minors or picking one guy out of the pile and sending him to the penalty box.
Being the playoffs, when there is no standard of officiating or standard enforcement of rules, teams don't play on eggshells--they stamp on them--but the more and more they push the boundaries of what's legal and what's just ridiculously, stupidly dirty, the more it appears that officials who seemed to have a quota of five or six penalties to call per period during the first six weeks of the regular season have been instructed to stand by and watch.
Yes, this stuff is "part of hockey," and it tends to increase when teams are battling for their post-season lives and their chances of winning a Stanley Cup, but we've gotten to the point where games are being decided on make-up calls or penalties that aren't being called 2/3rds of the time, and there's so much chirping for so many extended periods of time that it almost appears that the NHL has instituted a mini-debate requirement for both teams during the course of each period of regulation time (perhaps the Bruins won by scoring more goals than the Penguins and winning a debate on the "pros" of Gerrymandering as a political tool).
Perhaps, for the second year in a row, we're going to be watching a Stanley Cup Final that resembles rugby on ice or a rodeo interspersed by meaningful group conversations than hockey, and quite frankly, while I understand that playoff teams have no obligation to entertain fans, it's Gord-awful hockey to watch...
And the fact that every NHL season begins with a, "No touching! No talking! No impure thoughts or menacing glares!" standard of officiating makes the referees and the NHL as a whole look like a bigger, brasher and less credible bunch of hypocrites because we all already know that, come playoff time, the only calls that will matter are the make-up calls on game-determining plays while 95% of what was called during the season's first week is deemed, as Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire have said in trademark-worthy fashion, "A GOOD NON-CALL."
That's just dumb, because we seem to have gotten to the point where the teams best-prepared to win the Stanley Cup are the ones who build one kind of roster for regular-season play and find a way to promote prospects and acquire players best-suited for an entirely different kind of postseason game--or, those teams that, like the Kings, muck and grind their way through most of the regular season to ensure that the team needs not worry about much other than making the playoffs and imposing Darryl Sutter's pre-lockout brand of chip-and-not-chase, check-you-to-death hockey upon its opponents.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.