Jun 3, 2009

The uneven surface: Game 3 replay

As was predicted on this blog, Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals was nearly a rerun of the third game of the Washington-Pittsburgh series: the referees stepped up. As with that series, the problem is not that the penalties being called on Detroit aren't penalties; it's that Pittsburgh is constantly getting away with the exact same fouls. The crowning irony of the night was that the game-winner was scored on an interference penalty on Detroit to Jonathan Ericsson. Arguably, Ericsson was guilty, but it was a soft call.

What makes it unacceptable is that throughout the finals, Pittsburgh's defensemen have been blatantly interfering with Detroit's forwards every time they chip the puck in, and haven't been called on it once. Hal Gill is apparently allowed to grab passing Wings with both hands, because he keeps doing it and has yet to take a penalty. Pittsburgh's defense is notoriously weak, but they can compensate for it by not playing clean.

If that wasn't enough, CBC showed a replay of an extended offensive zone shift where the Penguins had six players on the ice. Then their announcers praises the referees. It makes me want to throw up.

It's fairly clear that there are two different rulebooks in play, like there were against Washington. These games have all been very close; remember that the game last night was tied 2-2 until the ridiculous penalty on Ericsson was called. In a game like this, when the referees clearly favor one side, it counts for a lot when all the other factors are so even. So far, over three games of the finals, one team has played some of the cleanest playoff hockey ever and the other team constantly fouls them. And yet they're getting the same amount of penalties. That kind of refereeing gives the edge to the team that plays dirty.

Of course, none of the mostly Canadian-run hockey media are going to even notice the six players on the ice or the other liberties the league and referees are constantly giving the Penguins. After all, Sidney Crosby, the anointed messiah of Canadian hockey, is playing against a team that consists mostly of Europeans.

It looks like this year, the league has really decided that the Penguins will win the Cup. If the next game doesn't go Pittsburgh's way from the start, the referees will be stepping up even more.


I've recently learned, though, that if you agree with anything I'm saying here, you're not a hockey fan.

Rory Boylen: THN.com Playoff Blog: Shut up and enjoy the games
The way the refs have put their whistles away and not called the chincy little taps by the defender that simply let the attacking player know he’s there – without slowing anything down – has provided us with some great games unimpeded by man-advantages that shouldn’t be a main story in any battle for the glorious Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup.

But, amazingly, there are still complaints. They focus not just on the refereeing, but a range of topics from the instigator rule to conspiracy theories. This really sticks in my craw, because if all you can do is whine and complain while this great display of skill, grit, desire and hunger is going on in front of us, then, I’m sorry, ya just ain’t a hockey fan.

Boylen then goes off on a childish tirade about how everyone except him is ruining hockey. His strawman argument is that anyone who complains about the refereeing or the suspensions wants to destroy hockey and to ban bodychecking. Yes, he actually said that. He makes the most moronic variation yet of the Mike Milbury argument, basically saying that unless you agree with Evgeni Malkin's non-suspension, then you want to remove bodychecking and emotion from the game. Also, he explicitly states that anyone who complains about Malkin not being suspended would also have complained if he had been suspended. That's pretty strange too, but then again, Rory Boylen would know more about me than, well, me.

I don't know how they do things in Canada, but I at least want to see a fair game. I'm not seeing that, and it pisses me off. The great display of hockey that is the Stanley Cup finals just isn't all that great when the ice is tilted one way. Am I supposed to enjoy seeing a team get a free pass from the referees all the way to the Cup final?

The only way I can really reply to this is to say that if Mr. Boylen has watched the same games I have, and calls the fouls Pittsburgh doesn't get penalties on "little taps", then he isn't a hockey fan either, because he can't tell an interference foul from a "tap". That is, hands down, the most idiotic column/blog/excrement I've ever read on the Hockey News.

One of his colleagues, Adam Proteau, said pretty much the same things I did about the Malkin suspension in his column. I guess he isn't a hockey fan either. Funny how restrictive these categories are when you're given the incredible wisdom and insight of Rory Boylen. I sometimes quite violently disagree with what Adam Proteau says, but I've always assumed that we both care a great deal about the game of hockey. Heck, I thought that was the reason we wrote about it. But now that I've experienced the Boylen Revelation, I realize that me and Adam aren't hockey fans at all. After all, we disagree with Rory.

This kind of argumentation belongs in the kindergarten, not The Hockey News. Do they let anybody write on their website? Maybe I should apply. It doesn't look like there are any standards.


jackjohnson07 said...

I actually tend to agree with him. The refs wont always be right and you cant argue the games have been fun to watch. and theres too much complaining from everyone nowadays.

Michael Halila said...

I don't agree with him, but that's not really my problem; my problem is that he's saying I can't disagree with him and still be a hockey fan.

By the way, Ken Campbell, a Hockey News senior writer, says the same thing I've said about the interference non-calls here. I guess he ain't a hockey fan either?