Did anybody actually think that the NHL would let the Canes eliminate Boston without a fight? I certainly didn't. But I didn't think the league would be so obvious about it. But I guess that desperate times calls for desperate measures.
Let's face the facts:
As much as we all love hockey, the truth is that it is run like a second rate league. And I won't even go into the whole abysmal TV deal bit (that's a whole 'nother rant...). But I do want to point out a major difference between the NHL and the other major sports leagues. In the other leagues (NFL, NBA, etc.), the rules don't change for the playoffs. A penalty is still a penalty. A foul is still a foul. However, in the NHL, the powers that be have decided that in the playoffs, what was a penalty in the regular season is somehow not a penalty now. Case in point: this Bruins/Canes series.
In a previous game, Eric Staal got the puck and a step on the defender and was clear for a breakaway. The defender reached out and literally grabbed a double handful of Staal's jersey and nearly turned him around. This is a penalty right? Wrong. No call.
In game 3, a Canes player was hooked down blatantly in front of the Bruin net, and the defender actually threw his arms up in disgust because he knew he was going to get a penalty. Tripping and/or hooking are penalties right? Wrong. No call.
Taking a high shot to Cole in the back (remember that broken neck Cole had a coupla years ago boys and girls? Boston does..) behind the play? Not a penalty in the playoffs according to the NHL. [Edit: Yes, I did see Jussi Jokinen slash Chara on the foot with no penalty. I'd almost bet that Jokinen will draw a suspension, while Stuart will get nothing for cheapshotting Erik Cole. But I digress again...]
To quote John Forslund: That's playoff hockey baby!
Yep, the rules change in the playoffs. And it sucks. Worse, it makes the league look like the joke it has become. Worse, it penalizes the teams that build their roster around speed and skill (which is what people want to see) while benefitting teams that build their roster for big, slow and lazy players (which is what people don't want to see). But you already knew that.
Now I know I'll take some heat for bitching about officiating. It is the easy way out, more often than not. I'll draw the usual "sour grapes" comments and "blame game" whining from the usual suspects. But the truth is that EVERY SINGLE HOCKEY FAN IN NORTH AMERICA knows that NHL officiating sucks at the best of times. And while to date, the officiating has not seriously affected this particular playoff series, it has had the potential to do so. And that is simply unacceptable in a so-called "professional" league, IMHO. Especially when the advantage has been so obviously one-sided.
Don't believe me? See for yourself:
According to Toronto, in the playoffs (and if you are not an "Original Six" franchise), this is not a goal; despite the half an inch of visible white between the puck and the goal line.
Worse, the league isn't even trying to hide their obvious desire to see Boston (Original Six Franchise, BTW...) make it to the ECF for their desired Chara - Crosby/Ovenchicken showdown. In fact, they are damn near flaunting it.
Don't believe me? Check the box score for the game tonight. Specifically, look who they assigned to call the game. Yep: Watson and Peel.
Does everybody here remember Peel?
In case you've forgotten, he was the guy who called the phantom dive on Erik Cole to deny Staal a hat trick (on an empty net goal in the last 30 seconds of a game no less...) a couple of years back. The call was so obviously bad that Peel himself actually even apologized to Cole for the call at the next Canes game he officiated.
As if that isn't bad enough, the NHL has paired him with Brad Watson tonight:
Any non-Cane fans may be wondering why Watson is so bad. However, there isn't a Caniac alive who doesn't know exactly where I am going with this one. So for the non-Caniacs, check this jewel out:
And that was just one of TWO completely bullshit diving penalties that Watson called on the Canes that game. (Not to mention the other stinkers called in that one.) Worse, the officiating played a part in our loss in that game; which may not seem like a big deal now, until you remember that we missed the playoffs by 1 lousy point last year...
Now given Watson's well known propensity to call completely phantom bullshit penalties on the Canes, you'd think that assigning Watson to call such a critical game would be the last thing the NHL would do. If nothing else, you'd think the league would keep him away from the Canes to avoid even the appearance of impropriety in such an important game. Letting Brad Watson officiate a Canes playoff game is like the NFL assigning Ed Hochuli to work a Denver/San Diego playoff game. It doesn't even pass the smell test. Yet, there he is - out there blowing on his whistle like a runaway freight train...
But this is the NHL. The No Honor League. And predictably, the Bruins have gotten a truckload of power plays tonight. There is just no way the NHL could forget Watson's history with the Canes when they made this assignment. Nor is there any excuse for this assignment.
So to the NHL, I say this:
If you want to pick and choose who gets to play for the cup, just scrap the playoff system and adopt the BCS structure. That way, you can cherry pick your beloved Original Six matchups and your Ovenchicken/Crosby matchups and save us "small market" fans the expense of playoff tickets. It's not like you need the revenue, eh?
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