30 May 2013

One SOH Opinion: Hawks, Wings and everything that makes NHL officiating cowardly.

One SOH (State of Hockey) opinion posts are to emphasize OPINIONS of the author.  Even if the post speculates on the opinions of other State of Hockey fans, such statements should be understood as speculation.   All readers are welcome to submit posts or ideas for "One SOH Opinion."  Tweet me @SOTSOHockey if interested.

Full Disclosure: It is probably safe to say my rooting interests lay with the Blackhawks in this series.  Not that I had anything in particular against Detroit, other than I simply didn't predict them to win the series.

Just about everything that is wrong with the state of NHL officiating was on display in the incident the final two minutes of the third period of last nights game seven between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings.  And this one cost Chicago what should have been the game winning goal when Niklas Kjarlmarsson appeared to score with 1:49 to play in the third.

The goal was waived off because of a neutral zone whistle blown by Stephen Walkom, the very same Walkom that was among the four officials that saw this hit on Chicago's Marian Hossa but judged that no call was needed.

If you want to skip the goal that never was, the first replay of penalty starts at about :40 in the video below.

Walkom is in the lower left corner and from :45 on the video until :53 seconds on the video his arm is at his side as he approaches the scrum.  I must assume he had no intention of calling the Red Wings Kyle Quincey   for dragging Saad to the ground.  In my opinion this should constitute interference, but this is the playoffs, we have all seen far worse let go.  It appeared Walkom was going to look the other way here, again arm is still at his side.

In the video, you don't see any action on Saad's part that would remotely justify a penalty until he gives a shot to Quincey's face at about 1:38.  Shortly after that you see Walkom approach the pile, arms still at his side, but then he blows the whistle.

Now I'm not saying Walkom set out to wipe a goal off the board here.  Once he blows the whistle, that's the end of it I get that.  My problem is with how horrible his decision making process is as demonstrated through his (lack of) signaling.

With Walkom's arm down the whole time until he whistles, it signals that he had no intention of calling anything until Saad provided, in Walkom's mind, an excuse to "even it up."  Comparing the two offenses that were actually called it seems to me, if Walkom wasn't willing to make a call on Quincey on its own merit, he has ABSOLUTELY NO BUISNESS making a call against Saad either.  Play should have continued.

As a reminder, if Walkom did signal the call against Quincey play would've continued with Chicago in possession, unless Saad or another Blackhawk took a penalty.  If Walkom signals the moment he sees it, in my opinion that at least mitigates how horrifying this situation is, because we at least know a whistle is coming.  That signal might even prevent Saad from retaliating, even as minimal as his retaliation actually was.  At the very least a signal means a whistle is coming.

But as fans we must assume no signal means no intent to make the call in the first place.  Walkom deciding to make a call after your arm has been down for what is an eternity in hockey-time until deciding he found an even-up situation is dishonest.

It's easy to pick on Walkom, I certainly feel like I'm piling on.  Howver, being afraid of power plays in late-game situations is something that has been terribly wrong with the culture of NHL officiating for some time now.  Calls should be calls whether or not the official believes there is a reason to even it up.  The fact that he waited for a small retaliation from Saad speaks volumes to Walkom's lack of courage in this example.  But I think this lack of courage is sadly acceptable among the NHL referee bretheren.

Given what we observed from Walkom's decision process in last night's game and applying it back to the Hossa-Torres example, I wonder if from the stretcher Hossa somehow mustered the ability to scratch Torres' nose in retaliation, maybe then Walkom would've called matching minors.

14 May 2013

Justin's NHL Playoff Predictions, Round 2

Time for new predictions as there is no waiting for Round 2, it begins tonight.

I am disappointing in my 4 out of 8 result from the first round, and I needed a Toronto collapse to get four.

Here's hoping for a better Round 2.


(#1) Chicago v. (#7) Detroit

I still think Chicago is the best team in the playoffs and I was probably optimistic hoping the Minnesota Wild would win 2 in the first round., even through they were close to winning game one.  Detroit might give the Blackhawks a little more trouble and obviously aren't that bothered being underdogs.  I'm glad we get this matchup one more time before realignment.  But this one goes to Chicago.

Chicago in 6

(#5) Los Angeles v. (#6) San Jose

I admit I didn't see much of the Sharks-Canucks series, it was over before I knew it.  So both teams enter the series having won four straight (though the Kings dropped the first two to St. Louis.)  If you liked Blues-Kings, I think this series has the ability to live up to that tight, heavy reputation is well.  I'd take seven of these.

San Jose in 7


(#1) Pittsburgh v. (#7) Ottawa

Like most fans, I was surprised to see the Islanders play Pittsburgh so close in Round one.  Ottawa did a great job containing Montreal and I think they might give Pittsburgh similar fits.  But in the end the Pens will find a way.

Pittsburgh in 6

(#4) Boston v. (#6) New York Rangers

Boy if it took two minutes longer for Boston to figure out how to score they wouldn't be here.  The Rangers also aren't getting the scoring that their lineup would indicate on paper.  As much as I need Boston to win so I can beat Gilles Ferrell from Hockey Wilderness and Team of 18,001  in our NHL.com bracket challenge I think I'm going to switch and get on board with the Broadway Blueshirts.

New York in 7

The rest of the way....

Chicago over San Jose
Pittsburgh over New York Rangers
Chicago over Pittsburgh

13 May 2013

The two most ridiculous types of Wild Chirps....

Oh the twittersphere.  I like it.  I like it's immediacy, I like that it provides a level of access to some of the best bloggers and sportswriters in ways unthinkable 10 years ago.  (And I hope I give back to this in my small way.)  I like that we can all watch the games while tweeting together.

But sometimes, there is plenty of stupidity that can be seen as well.  And people love to kick a team when their down.  I get that's fun, and in fairness I've engaged in it myself.  (Most recently by dancing on the Peoria Rivermen's grave, I will never forgive their fans for cheering Cuma's injury at the X in a game against Houston two years ago.)

Trash talk is part of the game, it's part of the fun, and I'm willing to accept that and engage in it.  (Obvioulsy I got sick of the line when they were handing out "Minnesota Nice" to newborns in this state.)  The danger of trash talk is that it will expose your stupidity.  And I have to say, upon the Wild's elimination there are two types of "chirps" that are incredibly stupid on their face.  I'm pointing out the highest profile example of each, but suffice to say

Ha Ha, $196 Million = 1 Playoff Win.

First, it's not like Parise and Suter are rentals.  They have 12 year deals.  The Wild have missed the playoffs four years in a row before this year, and really were never close in those season.  (The Wild were in until the second to last day in 2009, but otherwise it's been bad.)  Now they're in, even though the season ending was way closer than it should have been.

Meanwhile Nashville and New Jersey were both perennial playoff teams that weren't even close this year.  (Though I'm willing to entertain the argument New Jerey's woes had a lot more to do with Brodeur's injury.)

Oh well it's not like any serious sportswriters would make this remark.  Well I should point out the Minnesota Wild tied the Avs this season for most playoff appearances since the two teams met in 2008.  And it is likely the Wild will move ahead of Colorado next year and build the lead for a couple years after that.

But still, the hockey IQ in Minnesota is higher.  It's not like anyone in the media in this market would say something as abusrd...

Playoff loss means Fletcher failed at Pominville trade

Oh Patrick Reusse.  My favorite of the area curmudgeons.  But this statement only really makes sense if Pominville was a true rental.  The Wild traded him getting another year on his deal.  A year that again should be a playoff run and a higher finish.  When Pominville was in he was the legit finisher that was sorely missed in this series.  He wasn't full speed in the playoffs, but I hope this summer gives him a chance to recover.  (Thank goodness the NHL saw fit to suspend Dustin Brown for two games to prove they care about player safety huh?)

If Pominville were a true rental (meaning his contract is up this summer) this argument is totally legit, and it makes me wonder if Reusse's even aware of that.  Pommer's playing for a contract next year (and I'd like it to be here) we should see his best.  Yes his price was high, but one they could afford without affecting the game day roster.  Again, this is rooted in the faulty premise that the Wild would win the cup on the first try.  It's not like the Wild gave up all of that for just one month.  Seriously what owner would let something like that happen?

I probably had higher expectations than anyone thinking the Wild would win the Northwest this year. (Despite the April swoon ended up just four points short.)  Fear not for one season.  The elimination may have been early, but there's no denying there is one big step taken in the right direction, even met with a harsh reminder there is much work to do.  This team is built to have several more chances in the near future, but if idiots need cheap laughs now, let them.

10 May 2013

Be proud State of Hockey.

The Minnesota Wild were eliminated last night, losing 5-1 to the Blackhawks in Game 5 and Chicago advances to the next round.

I think it's okay to me a little disappointed, but this is a team set up for success long term.

Yes, the stats on the Koivu line are awful, but I can't imagine many other teams' top line had consistent success against Chicago this season.

The Power Play was dreadful, I can only hope this is improved next year.

Bad playoffs aside, Parise absolutely lived up to his contract this year.  Great numbers and a level of hustle this team desperately needed.  A great role model for all players and fans alike.  Suter, after the rough early start, ate an amazing number of minutes night in and night out.  And when healthy, Pominville proved he can be an important weapon for this team, even if his price was high.  Coyle's quick maturation and chemistry with Suter was invaluable to the success this year.

The tragedy of this season isn't the playoff elimination, but the fall from 3rd to 8th in April.  Pominville and Heatley getting hurt certainly didn't help, but the team needs to work on finding the net.

There is a lot higher this team can go, and they found out first hand what it will take by drawing the league's best team in the first round.  After realignment, the Wild know the playoffs are likely to often go through Chicago and they need to build their team to compete for that opportunity.

There were good signs, even in a series lost in 5 games.  The Wild looked good in Game 3, and were a crossbar away from winning Game 1.

The future is as bright as it's ever been in the State of Hockey, the result could've been better, but this wasn't the year they were set up to win it all.  And if Parise and Suter are the cornerstones, the Wild will have 11 more bites at the apple.