Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Law and Order: NHL


New York, NY

Pro hockey has undoubtedly the best post-season of any pro sport. The games are nearly all competitive, the level of play rises exponentially and the rules ratchet up the pressure to incredible heights.

Every bounce counts, every penalty is a chance to deliver a knock-out blow.

Which is why the Rangers are fucked. To borrow a phrase from Turkish in “Snatch,” “Proper fucked.”

Mr. Black is never “that guy,” the fan who thinks that referees, a league and fate is conspiring to keep his team from reaching their God-given levels of greatness. But in this case, the facts are all too telling.

It’s easy to make Brendan Shanahan the whipping boy of the NHL, especially after three weeks of seemingly random suspensions handed down. While Shea Weber and Matt Carkner get no penalties for moves only endorsed by the WWE, Carl Hagelin gets four games for an actual hockey play. (I will admit, it was a borderline illegal play did deserve a penalty during the game and at most a single game suspension.)

Let’s take a look at some of the more questionable decisions, your honor:

Exhibit A: Hagelin’s Suspension
Really no need to talk much about this one.

Outside of Rafi Torres’ 25 game suspension, this has been the harshest penalty levied by Brendan Shenanigan over the course of the playoffs. At first glance, Hagelin wouldn’t seem to be such an important piece, but his speed and aggressiveness has been the engine that drives the Blueshirts’ first line and you only have to see tape of last night’s game to realize how much they missed him.

Exhibit B: The Phantom Goal of Game Six
This is actually a case of the Rangers getting triple-screwed, and was my “JFK” moment. Not only was the goal off of an obvious kick by Chris Neil, but he also should have been called for goalie interference. In fact, “interference” isn’t the right word, it’s more goalie “spinterference” since Neil pushed Lundquist 180 degrees around when he skated into the crease.

Last but not least, the referee actually spoke to the NHL during the review of the play, which is not allowed per a change to league rules. According league rules, you can’t use video to review “interference” but you can use video the look for a puck kicked into the net. The officials called the goal good on the ice, but reviewed the tape to see if the puck was kicked in:


Looks like the puck changes direction to me, so Neil should be credited with the goal. But nope, Spezza still gets the goal on the score sheet.

How is that possible and why doesn’t the NHL release a statement to clarify what they saw on the video? It seems the ruling was that Neil didn’t touch the puck, the on-ice refs blew the call on interference, and the goal counts. Which adds up to awful refereeing.

Seriously, people, there was a second gunman on the grassy knoll. It was Brendan Shanahan. Makes me miss Colin Campbell. (Never thought I’d type that.)

Exhibit C: Milan Michalek Kicks Dan Girardi
Check out the video again to see Milan Michalek kick Dan Girardi with his skate. This is one of the worst offenses in hockey in my opinion, since if you connect the possibility of a major laceration is sky-high. I’ve seen it twice and neither player was able to play for at least three months.

The league reviewed the tape and “warned” both player and the GM. That, to me, is recognition of wrongdoing. I mean, why warn someone for something accidental. So the league says “do that again and you’ll get suspended.”

But in the mean time, an illegal play with intent to injure on a New York Rangers player merits just a warning. No double standard there, right?

Which brings us to:

Exhibit D: Matt Carkner Goes Postal On Brian Boyle
One game suspension for this:  WWE Highligts from MSG

The only two things Carkner doesn’t do is hit Boyle with a folding chair and jump off the top rope and deliver an elbow smash. During this melee, Brandon Dubinsky comes to his teammate’s aid and gets tossed out of the game.

In summary, we lose a second line forward and they lose an unskilled defenseman. Not exactly a fair trade. But hey, how do you define fair?

Exhibit E: Chris Neil Hits Brian Boyle
In a hit strikingly similar to Rafi Torres, and more vicious than Carl Hagelin, Chris Neil laid out Brian Boyle with a shot to the head.

Let’s see:
-       High hit. Check.
-       Leaves his feet. Check
-       Results in injury. Check.

All the makings of a four game suspension, minimum. It’s justice time, time for Sheriff Brendan to keep law and order on the ice.

And word from Toronto is….nothing.

The defense rests, your honor.

So some fairly one-sided decisions against the Rangers, and I’m feeling like there’s a bit of a conspiracy happening here. I’d fully expect the fine for Lundquist’s comments on the referees to come down from the league office very, very close to game time, just to get into his head pre-game.

But will it all work? I don’t think so.

I’m hoping that similar to “Snatch,” thinks work out well in the end. Our own little group of gypsies get pissed off (looking in your direction Richards, Gaborik, Staal and Callahan) and lay some serious smack down on the Senators. Hopefully they can come out hot and get an early three goal lead (after all, two goal leads aren’t safe with this team) and put the Senators away. Then ride the bunker mentality all the way to the finals.

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