Thursday, May 15, 2008


Game 3 Pens/Penguins disallowed goalOkay, this is the last time I'm going to say it: I'm so sick of people crying about the officiating in the playoffs.

Everyone sitting in their living room that has a huge HD screen providing them multiple camera angles and instant replays, as well as those watching NHL.TV on their computers and awful-quality replays on YouTube, obviously know better than the trained professionals who are watching the game in real time, skating up and down the ice, and communicating directly with the players and coaches to try to insure the two teams are playing a clean game. Give me a break.

Much has been made about "goalie interference" in this postseason. Here's the main problem with this infraction: despite what you might think, it's no longer a black and white "in the crease or not" foul, it's a judgment call that depends on the interpretation of the referee. Here's an excerpt from Rule 78: Protection of Goalkeeper:

The rule is based on the premise that an attacking player's position,
whether inside or outside the crease, should not, by itself, determine whether a
goal should be allowed or disallowed - i.e., goals scored while attacking
players are standing in the crease may, in appropriate circumstances be allowed.
Goals should be disallowed only if: (1) an attacking player, either by his
positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper's ability to move freely
within his crease or defend his goal; or (2) an attacking player initiates more
than incidental contact with a goalkeeper, inside or outside of his goal

Yes, the way it's written is vague, and therefore the calls are going to vary depending on the situation, the flow of the game, the ref who makes the call and whether or not he's in the position to witness it. But if your team gets penalized for it once, I guarantee that there are 5 or 6 times it WASN'T seen and/or called. It's the ultimate "hindsight is 20/20" bullshit argument to go back and compare slo-mo replays of two different plays 5000 times and critique the refs. But it's just not realistic, and taken out of context, it's not fair.

I think a bigger problem is the NHL giving the officials specific instructions regarding which calls they should be focusing on. I heard on XM Home Ice the other day that there were something like 13 goalie interference calls in the first round, and only 2 in the second round (albeit, there are less games, but that's still a large difference). While it's possible the players "learned their lesson", I would be willing to bet that the NHL told their officials to "let them play" in most instances and allow more of those goals to count. After all, a 7-5 game is much better than a 1-0 OT game, right? (Right, Gary?)

Back in the day, the two teams would find out who was refereeing that night ("Crap, we got Kerry Fraser tonight!") and they knew what to expect. But they're no longer allowed to have their own refereeing "style", to call the game the way they see it and use penalties to control a game. The league wants them to be "consistent" throughout the playoffs, and I argue that it's impossible to do that if they're constantly being instructed, second-guessed and closely monitored in some secret room in Toronto.

The bottom line is this: the game moves incredibly fast, and everything can't possibly be called the way you think it should. If you think a team got jobbed on one call, there's an equally good chance they also got away with something during the same game. Just deal with it.

(But how did they wave off that goal in the Penguins/Flyers Game 3 (see picture)? Hey, it could be worse: you could have the IIHF officiating crew who allowed a goal in the Finland vs. USA game that went THROUGH the outside of the net.)

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