Just a few hours away from hitting the 'dome in anticipation of Game 3 between the Sharks and the Flames. I expect a wild and crazy crowd and I just hope that the Flames don't get over-hyped for the game and take some bad penalties early. I expect another tight game and hope the Flames continue to hit the Sharks and don't try to beat them at a finesse game, regardless of the way game 2 was officiated, the Flames have to continue to play a tough and physical brand to be able to beat these Sharks.
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Being 3 days removed from that debacle of a game 2 in which the Flames were on the PK for 33% of the game... I can take solace in the fact that nobody was going to beat Nabokov that night. And even if the officials didn't suddenly change their views on penalties and the Sharks didn't dive all over the ice, the Flames still would have lost 1-0.
Sticking with the officiating. I have found that early in these playoffs that the refs are deciding too many of these games. I'm not all that surprised as there was about a month stretch in March where there was at least one game-changing call per night. If I were commissioner of NHL, I would make the officials accountable for their actions and would it required for them to face the media just as the players do, and would also set up a fine/suspension structure. I was so happy to hear the Mick McGeough was not reffing in the playoffs only to see several games impacted in exactly the way he impacts games... in an adverse way.
I'm sure Boston fans would agree whole-heartedly with the last paragraph, although I feel that Montreal was the team who was actually hosed yesterday. The call on Reich in the OT was absolutely a penalty, no doubt about it. But the game should never have reached extra time as the Bruins were allowed to gang-tackle the Habs all night long. If not for a 2-0 lead for the Habs during much of that time, people would have been up in arms.
Now, when Ron Wilson addressed the officiating after game 2, he said... the league doesn't have a set rule book for the regular season and a different one for post-season. We play by the rules.... Okay, thanks Ron! The league has always changed the way it refs playoff games, even the year after the lockout when it was a major crackdown on penalties. The same stuff that was being called in the regular season was being let go in the playoffs. Listen, I believe the NHL has the best officials in professional sports. But I also believe that it is getting worse year by year and as long as Bettman is commish, it will continue in that direction. I also am a firm believer in sports conspiracy and fixing games. In fact, if someone told me Mick McGeough had to come out just like Tim Donaghy of the NBA... it wouldn't surprise me for a second. The rules shouldn't change from ref pairing to ref pairing and from game to game. It shouldn't change from period to period. What's a penalty in the first should be a penalty in OT.
Finally on the officiating front. Teams should NOT be rewarded for diving. This is a major problem in the league and it reared it's ugly head in game 2 of the Flames/Sharks. As many of the penalties on the Flames were completely warranted, the same amount was due to diving on the part of the Sharks. Kyle McLaren and Joe Thornton being the biggest ones. Have you ever seen a half-hearted slash ever take down a player before (not named Kovalev)? Please answer that. On top of that, he laid on the ice, writhing in supposed pain only to play the next 2 minutes. It was laughable to watch a player who gets so much respect degrade himself in that manner. It was clear that between periods Ron Wilson told his players that if the Flames hit you, you need to fall. It worked. And what started as a tight-checking, hard-hitting hockey game that clearly favors the Flames, turned into a sloppy, penalty-ridden, diving affair that nearly made the game unwatchable. Yes, this is absolutely a Flames fans perspective on the game, but I would have this same feeling had I watched this in another game. And I challenge anyone to watch this game again and tell me that I'm wrong. Specifically, watch the Vandermeer slash on Thornton and watch him drop AFTER he realizes he's been slashed.
FINALLY. The Red Wings. They are GOOD. There is no doubt about that. How on earth can you dump and chase with Lidstrom on the back end? However, having watched their first two games it is clear to me that their is a way to beat this team. Get Dominik Hasek AS involved in the game as possible. Brush him, whack at the puck when its covered, dump it around and make him play it. The more he's involved the better chance you have at him making a mistake. In a game yesterday that should have been 5 or 6 nothing, there was a 3 minute sequence where the Dominator took over the game and made mistake after mistake, ending with 2 goals in 11 seconds and a tie game. It was wild. I think Detroit should make Osgood the number one if they want a chance at the Cup. He may not be as good of a tender, but he won't make the brutal mistakes that cost you big games. It's only a matter of time until Hasek flopping costs you a goal. He does it so often. And Mark Recchi said on TSN yesterday that their goal was to get the puck on Hasek's stick as much as possible because he'll do something stupid.
Go Flames Go.
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