Posted on: June 4, 2008 11:42 pm
What an exciting game six of the Stanley Cup Finals. Although there were several stories in these playoffs, there is one thing I will never forget: the conduct of the Penguins fans after the game was over. Rather than booing, crying, and/or leaving, they stood and cheered for their Penguins. "FLEURY FLEURY." "LETS GO PENGUINS." Then, after the Penguins left the ice, they did the unimaginable: they stayed. They stayed. They stood. They cheered for Detroit. The Pittsburgh fans cheered for the Red Wings. Recognizing the accomplishment and demonstrating great sportsmanship, the Pittsburgh fans did not boo, and they did not make Detroit celebrate in an empty building. Instead, the Penguins fans showed true reverence to the greatest trophy in sport, and to the greatest sport alive.
Thank you, Penguins fans. You are a model for all of us.
Hopefully, we'll see the Cup in San Jose next year, but now I would have no problem seeing it land in Pittsburgh either.
Posted on: June 3, 2008 8:59 pm
Okay, so the NBC announcers completely blasted the referees in Detroits Game 5 loss to Pittsburgh for two goaltender interfenerence calls. They argued that "you have to be able to do that" and "the NGL needs to address this in the offseason - this just isn't fair." Funny thing: in both cases, I was shocked when initially I didn't see an orange band in the air! They both seemed like obvious calls to me. Let me explain why.
First Call - 2:15 remaining OT1: Since the NHL removed their crease violation rule, players are allowed to be in the crease, with or without the puck, as long as they do not interfere with the goaltender. In this case, the puck was in the crease, and the Detroit player (I think this one was Henrik Zetterberg), in going after the puck, pulled Marc-Andre Fleury off the post. If you watch the replay closely, Fleury is in a stacked pads, and Zetterberg, under his own strength and without undue help from a Pengiun, attempted to travel through the crease, and in the process his force moved Fleury a solid foot across the crease. The net result was a netminder not minding the net: Detroit now had plenty of room on Fleury's (now vacated) glove side to score. The announcers argued that the contact was not intentional, and that you have to protect the players. Intent does not matter. The question you must ask is "Was the goaltender hindered via contact from doing his duties of protecting the goal?" The answer is absolutely he was. No one can argue that being yanked across the crease out of position is being interfered with. Granted, Pittsburgh probably didn't deserve a two minute powerplay for that, but at the very least the whistle needed to be blown. I was a fan of the old crease rule - now if there is any interference there has to be a minor penalty, putting the referees in a difficult spot. In years past, the referee could have simply blown the whistle for a man being in the crease without the puck being there. Granted, the puck preceded the player in this situation, and thus the referees' hands were tied.
Second Call - unsure of time: The announcers say "You've gotta be allowed to do that, what else could he do" when a Red Wing cut towards the net on a partial break from Fleury's glove side and knocked Fleury back into the cage after taking a shot. "What else could he do" is possibly the dumbest question that could have been asked. The Red Wing had numerous options, the best of which was to take a shot and to cut towards the boards instead of towards the net. He also could have stopped and shot or made a move towards the center to evade the defender. Instead, he went full speed right at the cage. Actually, his stupidity cost himself a better scoring opportunity in the sense that he opted for a fast track to a bad angle opposed to cutting towards the center or curling to the side and looking for support from the forecheck. I actually disagreed with the use of goaltender interference here - I would have opted for charging. In either case, though, a player can't simply run into the goaltender because "his momentum took him." The bottom line is that he ran into the goaltender through no fault of the other team, and it wasn't an accident. If he loses an edge and falls, thats one thing because that's a natural part of the game and Fleury was not facing an imminent shot at the time of the collision (the puck was behind the net in Penguin possession). Instead, the free decision of the Red Wing to crash the cage led to him running into Fleury - and that's a penalty. Now, here's an interesting scenario: Take that exact scenario except the puck crosses the goal line into the net instead of going wide, and thus Fleury gets hit about a second after the puck goes into the net. What do you do then? There was no "goaltender interference" on that play - the puck was in the net before Fleury was interfered with. However, he was hit. In that case, the goal should stand and a (preferably charging) penalty should be assessed. Sorry Wings fans, but a penalty was absolutely deserved there.
For those of you who want to scream bias - I am a San Jose Sharks fan (I was at Game 2 vs. Dallas and I questioned the Unsportsmanlike Conduct call against Rivet for arguing a [good] no call on a potential trip against a Dallas player due to the time in the game and the fact that it's the playoffs, but at the end of the day the conduct was unsportsmanlike), and I predicted Detroit in 5.
Interestingly enough, I took the most issue with the 4 minute High-Stick, which NBC didn't have much of a problem with. That was clearly accidental and there was hardly any blood. I know the rule so I know the call had to be made, but it doesn't seem right to me to tie the referees' hands into a four minute powerplay, especially when you consider the chance of something of this sort happening in Overtime. I understand also how the rule is necessary because they don't wear cages, but I just thought that was a weak way to get a powerplay. Of course, I agree with the call because the rule is the rule, and furthermore I even agree with the rule. It's unfortunate that there really isn't another way to protect the players than with the four minute rule...I agree it has to stay the way it is...it's just a bit frustrating.
OH WAIT - THERE IS A WAY TO FIX THAT. MAKE THEM WEAR CAGES!!! One of the Dallas Stars does it...but God forbid you force someone making $5mil a season to do something - that just wouldn't be fair now would it? I'm sorry your feelings hurt Mr. Jagr, would you like a $1mil cookie?