The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/06/13 at 04:18 AM ET
It's been a week since the Red Wings were eliminated from the playoffs, and yet, when a "battle" occurred along the side boards which directly led to Patrice Bergeron's 2OT winner in the Bruins' 2-1 win over Pittsburgh--in a game where I have no allegiances whatsoever, though the natural Wings fan's desire to see the Penguins bent over and broken like so much firewood may have yielded a little sigh of relief when Bergeron put the Bruins up 3 games to zip--the predictable Twitter firestorm followed.
As soon as those who witnessed Jagr "win" the "battle" by jabbing his stick into and under Evgeni Malkin's hands to stop his momentum stated that they felt it was a "hook," so many of the objective media types had a hissy fit, claiming that anyone who deemed the play that led to the goal to be less than 100% legal to be tinfoil hat-wearing lunatics, and others ripped into those who made the observation, lamenting the "whiners" and "moaners" and "conspiracy theorists'" existences.
I was accused of being a "homer" by some moron who insisted that what I'd seen was not hooking, and when I responded asking him what hooking was, he told me that I sucked and was a media homer.
Clearly, as a deranged Wings fan, I cannot see clearly, nor can I make judgments about the sport of hockey.
But I will tell you one thing with certain clarity: there is no time that I want to state for the record that I am a subjective blogger any more bluntly than I do when I "don my tinfoil hat," because the, "Move along, there's nothing to see here" mentality espoused by some of the "objective" types all but literally makes me ill.
How did those objective types see it? The unassailably professional USA Today's Kevin Allen described the play as follows (and I must note that the following quips and quotes are not meant as incriminating evidence or the presence of disdain or dislike for or lack of respect for the people I'm quoting and have no qualms with or ill will toward)...
The game-winning play started with 41-year-old Jaromir Jagr winning a puck battle against Malkin.
"He's a pretty strong individual," Rask said.
Bergeron said Jagr's play was indeed the fire-starter
"He's pretty much a legend," Bergeron said. "He's a guy who is going to be in the Hall of Fame at some point, and he's doing the little thing right there just to fight for the puck."
Jagr got the puck to Brad Marchand, who got the puck to Bergeron. Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik was draped over Bergeron, who still got the shot away. The shot beat Vokoun, who was solid with 38 saves after being pulled in Game 2.
"That's the playoffs," said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. "That's how it works sometimes. I thought we deserved better, but they found a way to get the big one in overtime."
SI's Allan Muir saw the play develop like this...
The winning formula had a familiar recipe, with Brad Marchand feeding Patrice Bergeron at the goalmouth for another game-winner. This time, it was the ageless Jaromir Jagr who started the play by knocking down Evgeni Malkin along the boards and starting Marchand up the ice. It was Jagr’s 27th minute of play on his 35th shift. “Jags is doing whatever it takes to win,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. As for Marchand and Bergeron: “That’s what happens when you’ve been together three years,” Julien said. “Marchy could have given it to him sooner, but he waited for him to get to the net.”
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Dejean Kovacevic of all people gave the Penguins no quarter while gushing about Jagr's dominant performance--and there is no doubt that Jagr played absolutely fantastically well...
Here's how he did …Malkin pursued a puck along the right boards near center red, and Jagr came hard from behind. (All the backchecking was something no Pittsburgh fan would recall, of course, but times change.) Jagr used his stick to give Malkin a tug and took possession, whirling to turn play the other way.
Was it a hook?
Would any referee at any level of hockey call it in double-overtime?
Not a chance.
So Jagr pushed the puck up to a racing Brad Marchand for a two-on-two, and a great player had started a great play. Marchand couldn't quite get around a smartly backpedaling Deryk Engelland (who wasn't about to win a footrace with Boston's fastest skater), but he passed laterally to Bergeron (who as covered equally tightly by Brooks Orpik), and Bergeron deftly redirected it just inside the far post behind Tomas Vokoun (the best player on either team).
It came without fault, a great play to finish a great game.
And it wasn't either of the Penguins' great players who got it done.
Sorry, so be it.
And I think the Hockey News's Adam Proteau called it like someone who might suggest that referees should be held to a higher standard would describe the play:
Play of the Game: The officiating once again was highly questionable, particularly when regulation time ended and overtime began. So it was apt that the game-winner began on what should have been a Jaromir Jagr hooking penalty on Malkin. Instead, Jagr’s mugging turned into a Brad Marchand pass that Bergeron tipped in. The scoring play took skill, but its genesis was another example of how the officials allow virtually anything to happen in the heat of the post-season.
Again, the Bruins ain't "my team." I have a slight desire to see them win more than I'd like to see the Penguins advance to the Cup final before imploding, but there is no real desire to see anything more than as many games played as possible, which the Bruins winning does not encourage...
And I also understand that:
A) As Mike Babcock said, the referees don't exactly get to review plays on video before deeming whether they should "let 'em play";
B) As Glenn Healy duly noted, the overtime periods were something of a grab-and-grope fest for both teams--as overtime periods have been for every team that's engaged in them during the playoffs;
C) And at this time of year, the goal that results from completely legal plays are incredibly hard to find. The intensity, urgency and level of play and heavy, heavy checking going on are stifling offense, and it takes a pick or a pull or a run at a goaltender to break the player-versus-player deadlock more often than not.
I don't get what's such a big *#$%@& deal about admitting that Jagr hooked Malkin. I don't understand why anyone who saw the play as less than perfectly legal and gutsy and a wonderfully beautiful result of the elegance and majesty of hockey.
What the *#$%@&, seriously? What the *#$%@&? I didn't give a shit who won this game. I don't have a rooting interest. Hey, shit wasn't called and the standard of officiating, as superb or poor as it might be, is finally, "Let EVERYTHING GO but horizontal stick fouls!" consistent after a schizophrenic, multiple personality disorder inconsistent 2013 season's worth of dirty looks being penalized giving way to grabbing, groping and on-ice prostate exams being allowed to take place as the game's degenerated to rugby and/or football and/or wrestling on ice.
I obviously don't happen to enjoy the aesthetic value or lack thereof of a return to true "dead puck era" check-'em-to-death hockey (Gord forbid we get the Kings and Bruins in the final...Muck muck muck grind grind grind grind goalies goalies goalies goalies and all that will yield goals will be picks and pulls and tugs).
But why the *#$%@& am I deemed to be a nutty "media homer" if I dare to suggest that a play that breaks strictly-defined NHL rules is in fact an illegal play? Or that it might be a WEE bit disappointing that these plays are the only ways games seem to be decided come April, May and June?
When I took up the game of hockey, in my first game, I scored seven goals. But my peers looked at a 6-foot-tall, 250-pound 14-year-old and said, "Hey, you should push people around."
So I did, and my street-hockey-playing friends encouraged the birth of someone who was watching Shawn Burr, Brad Marsh and a very young Vladimir Konstantinov bend and twist the rulebook into a pretzel before eating it and then pooping it out. I became an incredibly, incredibly dirty, nasty and vicious player, hell-bent upon pushing my opponents to the very edge of losing their minds before backing off ever-so-slightly...And then hacking, whacking, pulling, groping, slashing, hooking, spearing, tripping, elbowing, checking and otherwise molesting my opponents right back to that edge.
I got some of my opponents to drop their gloves. I got some of my teammates in a referee-less league to tell me to calm the *#$%@& down lest I be banned from playing. I gave up my share of penalty shots and the hockey equivalent of "free kicks" to even up for my dirty play when it was deemed unconscionable. That was fine by me.
I heard my would-be teammates call my name earlier and earlier when we dropped our sticks on the center of the tennis court we'd illegally entered across from Divine Child High School. I heard, "Oh, thank God" when I was picked to play on their side. If I was gonna do my job, I was doing it well, including when I Kronwalled a Varsity player and made him do a somersault thanks to a very legal and very clean butt check.
I also learned from watching Kontstantinov play that, when one truly got one's opponent's goat, one was going to be in line for getting as good as one gave. And being a stand-up player, even an incredibly dirty one, meant taking one's share of punishment and simply skating away. If I'd pissed someone off and they hit, hooked, hacked or otherwise "evened" the score by dirtily taking me out, I was happy to know that I was doing my job, and I'd take the number of the truck who hit me, often saying, "Good hit" before leaving my usually-singled-out opponents absolutely baffled as to why I was letting them get their revenge without choosing to retaliate.
Sometimes I got some bruises and welts. Occasionally, they'd draw blood. I understood that if I was to even the score or take revenge, I'd have to do it the old-fashioned way, going directly at 'em while their heads were up, face-to-face, and sometimes giving 'em a, "Hey!" to let them know I was coming. Because it is indeed possible to be a cheap bastard without being a spineless hockey player.
You might not be surprised to find out that, when my hockey-playing classmates found out that I would occasionally and happily be relieved from my role by donning goal pads and rather calmly stopping pucks, they encouraged me to take up the goaltending profession, and that's how I got my union card, because I was heartily praised for mediocre goaltending and loaned equipment so that I could more adequately give up one fewer goal than my counterpart, all while finding myself absent the tunnel vision and single-minded desire to beat the shit out of everyone else.
Long story long, I know cheap, dirty play. I could have written a book about trying to mindf*** one's opponents in both soccer and hockey (I may still yet write that book), because a kid who's six feet tall and 250 pounds from age 12 onward often finds himself being told to "move people" instead of chipping in goals or dishing slick passes while playing left-footed or left-handed-shooting-left, as it were.
But the hockey axiom that, "If you're not cheating, you're not trying" does not exonerate the cheater.
And the fact that I'm going to be waking up in August picturing David Bolland boarding Gustav Nyquist and Brent Seabrook scoring the series-winning goal in the Game 7 of the Wings-Hawks series, knowing but remaining furious that Brad Watson's waving off of Niklas Hjalmarsson's game-winner all but demanded an even-up, and finding to my ever-increasingly-infuriated surprise that the "objective media types" thanked the *#$%@& hockey gods for the refs letting that boarding call go so that the game would end "fairly," insisting that anyone who saw the play develop differently was in fact a conspiracy theorist sharing Tim Thomas's bunker in Colorado.
If you ask me, it's that perception from the objective types that is truly batty.
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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.