NASHVILLE – Some final thoughts from a Stanley Cup final that was one of the weirdest in recent memory:
♦In Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final, the Nashville Predators had a potential 1-0 lead wiped out because Filip Forsberg’s DNA was offside 16 seconds before the goal, a goal that came off a turnover by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
In Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final, the Nashville Predators had a potential 1-0 goal wiped out because referee Kevin Pollock prematurely blew the whistle on a puck that Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray never had before Colton Sissons poked in the rebound.
We’ll never know how the final would have been impacted if both those situations were reversed, but we do know those two examples are a clear indication of the failings of video replay in the NHL. The Sissons called-back goal was not even reviewed because it couldn’t be reviewed. The same league that insists that a toenail being offside is still offside and those are the rules is the same one that prevents an egregious error by a referee to not be corrected. There’s likely nobody in the world who feels worse about all this than Pollock, a good referee and a good person who made an honest mistake. If the league had allowed for a play like this to be reviewed, Pollock would not have been left hung out to dry.
This is a league that almost never thinks of the unintended consequences when it governs the game. Matt Duchene is 10 feet offside and scores a goal? Well, then we have to implement video replay for all offsides, regardless of how long before the goal they occurred and how close they are. The fact is, the Pollock mistake should not be reviewable. But neither should chintzy offside plays.
The more I see of video review in the NHL, the more I believe it’s a boondoggle. There should be video review for one thing and one thing only. And that is whether or not the puck fully crossed the goal line. This is a game played and officiated by human beings who sometimes make mistakes.
♦The more I think about it, the more I believe the best choice for the Conn Smythe Trophy would have been Pittsburgh’s goaltending tandem of Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury. The fact is, Fleury got the Penguins to the final. There’s no way they win Game 7 of the second round against the Washington Capitals without him. And all Murray did was steal the first two wins of the final for the Penguins when his team was badly outplayed, then register shutouts in his team’s last two wins of the final.
Sidney Crosby was a solid choice and Evgeni Malkin would have been just as stellar. But the Penguins, who were routinely outshot and whose possession game in the playoffs was sub-par, won on the strength of their goaltending. It’s interesting to note after I wrote a blog about the possibility of awarding the Conn Smythe to both Murray and Fleury, the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association asked the league for clarification on that issue and was told that any dual entries would be treated as spoiled ballots.
♦P.K. Subban is an otherworldly talent with a dynamic on- and off-ice personality who could be the future face of the NHL. But he will continue to be a polarizing figure – both league-wide and in his own dressing room – unless he figures out that it’s not always about him.
This Listerine debacle is the most current example of how, like ‘Manny being Manny’ with the Boston Red Sox, P.K. being P.K. can sometimes lead down a path that does not end well. The fact that Subban ranged somewhere between gilding the lily and outright shoveling horse manure when it came to Crosby saying he had bad breath is only part of the issue. What a lot of people forget is that those comments came after Game 3, a game in which the Predators dominated, their fans were engaged like never before and goalie Pekka Rinne found his game. Instead of talking about his team, Subban decided to make it about himself.
That led to days of inane chatter, followed by the Predators finally putting an end to the whole thing by not making Subban available for three straight days. Even the league pleaded with the Predators to make Subban available after the morning skate prior to Game 6, but the Predators were having none of this circus and you really can’t blame them.
So, largely because Subban dug a hole out of which he couldn’t extricate himself, he was put under radio silence for three days during one of the NHL’s signature events. That does nothing for the league or for Subban’s brand.
♦One last word on the officiating in the Stanley Cup final. It was brutal, not because the on-ice officials are incompetent, but because they’re guided by a league where the culture is so out of whack that it clouds their judgment.
These are the best referees in the world, which is why they’ve been selected to do the final in the first place. As we saw with Pollock, they sometimes make mistakes. You can live with those. What is so infuriating is seeing James Neal get crosschecked eight times and slewfooted by Ian Cole right in front of the referee without a penalty being called, or watching Crosby drill Subban’s head into the ice a half-dozen times with Brad Meier looking over the two players and calling coincidental minors.
I can’t begin to count the number of people with whom I corresponded on social media who were utterly turned off by the inconsistency in the officiating, particularly during the playoffs.