So that was wicked cool, huh? There’s little better in life for a hockey fan than Game 7 of a Stanley Cup playoff series and Boston’s 1-0 win over Tampa Bay on Friday was a compelling spectacle. The goaltending was stellar, the intensity immense, the hitting brutal and the courage awesome.
But (and you knew there was a but coming right?), why do the officiating standards change so much in “seventh and deciding games” and why does it seem so widely acceptable?
The first penalty of the game didn’t come until…well, we’re still waiting for it…despite numerous superstar rodeo moves on both sides. The fact wasn’t lost on the on-air talent on Hockey Night in Canada (sorry, didn’t have access to the Versus feed), most of whom were supportive of the striped men. The minor exception was Mike Milbury, who noted prior to the third period that if a legitimate infraction occurred it must be called.
It all begs the question: Is the Game 7 practice right and good for the game?
In this particular series, through six games, Tampa Bay held a large edge in special teams play. The referees’ decision, either wittingly or via instinct, to put away their whistles arguably had more impact on the outcome than if they’d called it by the book.
We understand the reticence of the officials; nobody wants to feel responsible for a tide shift in a critical game, but the lack of calls enables players to push the line further and further and can drastically change a game’s complexion.
In this case, Tampa Bay’s red-hot power play never got the opportunity to get their team on the scoresheet. Huge advantage Boston.
Steven Stamkos added another chapter to his burgeoning brilliant career. The Lightning’s best forward in the series (sorry, Marty St-Louis) also proved his leadership skills by taking a puck to the face and returning to action a few minutes later with a full cage…
Boston’s dominance in the faceoff circle helped tipped the scales. David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron combined to go 29-11.
Dennis Seidenberg was a tower of strength on the blueline for Boston, logging a game-high 27:57 and blocking eight shots…
Teams’ home ice record in the playoffs is now barely over .500 (42-40) in the 2011 playoffs, but it’s 5-1 in Game 7s. Guess the regular season does mean something after all.
1. Nathan Horton – He didn’t dominate, but returned from an apparent first period injury to score the only goal of the game late in the third.
2. Dwayne Roloson – The 41-year-old wonder rebounded from shaky performances earlier in the series to keep his team in it with 37 saves, many of the highlight variety. His vision and anticipation were uncanny.
3. Tim Thomas – Not as busy as Roloson, but the soon-to-be Vezina Trophy winner was rock-solid.
THE BLACK HOLE
Vincent Lecavalier – Game 7 afforded the Lightning captain and highest-paid player to make a difference, but he managed just two shots on goal and was eaten up in the faceoff circle (32 percent).
The NHL Game Night Recap will get you caught up with all the playoff action. THN will name our Three Stars for each game and tabulate the results after each series. First Star = three points, Second Star = two points, Third Star = one point.