May 05, 2003

Officiating a huge factor?: According to some, games 5 and 6 of the Senators vs. Flyers series were decided by the refs. Each team had a power play a piece in game 5, and then 7 for the Sens and 4 for the Flyers in game 6 seems about right. But wait, the Sens averaged 13.8 pims a game during the regular season, while Philly had 12.2 pims per game. It seems odd to the two teams are even close in this department. Watching another Senators' romp on a lowly East team this season I made the ill-advised argument that the Senators always seem to be on the PP, basing that on home-ref advantage. I was quickly made aware that refs rotate throughout the league. Looking back, I see there was credibility in my assertion. Kudos to the Senators for playing smart all season long.

posted by garfield to hockey at 12:32 PM - 29 comments

Playing smart? Or playing cheap? Kind of depends on who you ask.

posted by Samsonov14 at 01:18 PM on May 05, 2003

Smart or cheap? It don’t matter. The reason the Sens won game five was because they played a lot better than Philly. The refs had nothing to do with that one. As for the broader picture, I don't think one specific team benefits more from refs than another, or at least I don’t think there is anything sinister involved if they do. At most the Senators receive the benefit of the doubt because they are widely regarded as a disciplined or perhaps clean (ok, “soft”) hockey club. The same way goons and divers do not receive any leeway from a ref, the Senators do. In my mind that label is earned, so I hold no grudge. Inconsistent calls from refs is a huge concern for hockey and it needs to be. Games four and five in this series were like night and day when you look at some of the calls/non-calls, and that can’t be an easy way to play the game. Still, this is by no means a new issue. Rather it’s been in full play since October (and as long as I’ve been watching hockey) and I don’t think it’ll change anytime soon.

posted by 86 at 01:38 PM on May 05, 2003

I like power plays. They introduce a nice (small) injection of stomach-gnawing feelings throughout a match. A really brilliant hockey innovation (not counting slashing, whacking, slamming someone into the boards, and fighting). I wonder what would happen to soccer games if they did that, getting sent off, but only for a short while. Hmmmm. What's a pims?

posted by worldcup2002 at 02:23 PM on May 05, 2003

WC2002, I never really thought about why “Penalty Minutes” are abbreviated as “PIMs” before. That’s going to keep me up tonight. 86, I agree with you about team labels like “dirty” or “soft” being earned. The Sens and Leafs are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to PIMf/PIMa ratios, and with good reason. Darcy tucker can’t get away with anything anymore, but that’s only because he’s proved through his actions that he should be watched closely by the refs. Same goes for Tie Domi. I’m sure this extends a bit to the rest of the team, as well. “Soft” or “skill” guys like the Sens, on the other hand, get a free pass once in a while. Martin Havlat’s a just a kid, and doesn’t have a reputation for dangerous stickwork yet. I think that has a lot to do with the reason he wasn’t called on his high sticks during this series, even though he’s been waving that thing around all over the place. You put a Joe Thornton or a Claude Lemiuex or a Darcy Tucker in there instead (guys with a rep for irresponsible or cheap play), and the refs are going to be watching them much more closely.

posted by Samsonov14 at 02:39 PM on May 05, 2003

Penalties, In Minutes As opposed to counting the number of penalties a player has received. For example, a player who gets 2 minor penalties, 1 major penalty and a misconduct penalty would have 4 penalties but 19 penalties in minutes ([2*2]+[1*5]+[1*10]=19). Joe Thorton has a reputation equal to that of Lemieux or Tucker? That's the first I've heard of it.

posted by grum@work at 03:20 PM on May 05, 2003

Thanks, grummy, I learnt something new about hockey today. Cheers!

posted by worldcup2002 at 03:23 PM on May 05, 2003

Grum, my comparison of Thornton to Lemiuex or Tucker is a bit extreme. The refs do watch him, though, and he has a habit of getting himself suspended from time to time. The Boston papers are always talking about how he has to keep his stick down when he’s upset.

posted by Samsonov14 at 03:47 PM on May 05, 2003

I'm just glad 'neutral zone' obstruction calls have subsided from the torrid pace at which they were called up until....oh let's say January; once the race gets tight, the whistles go away. Well, that's another huge debate, but as 86 deftly sums "Inconsistent calls from refs is a huge concern for hockey and it needs to be." Call it or not, just be consistent. There are eight officials' eyes out there afterall.

posted by garfield at 04:13 PM on May 05, 2003

They definitely need to start calling more high-sticks. Letting that get out of hand risks serious injury (as opposed to the no-calls on interference and obstruction that just make the game dull). Better to crack down on that before someone else loses an eye. Back on topic - I don't think officiating is deciding the Flyers-Sens series. Philly is 0-for-14 on PP and they've been pretty iffy on offense. Lots of beautiful passing and puck cycling in the zone, but not enough shots, not enough opportunistic scoring. Ottowa just plain outplayed them on Saturday.

posted by kokaku at 04:26 PM on May 05, 2003

As a completely unbiased (ha) Sens fan, I can make the same case about Havlat's high stick as I can about all the missed interference, clutch/grab, and holding that the Flyers got away with in Game 4. Beyond a certain threshold you've gotta call that stuff. I thought Game 5 was just about perfectly officiated though. Maybe the teams were just on their best behaviour. I know Philly is not wanting to take many penalties since they get burned for PP goals so often, but I approve of letting 'em play.

posted by Succa at 05:39 PM on May 05, 2003

Looks like it doesn't matter anymore. GO SENS!

posted by Succa at 09:13 PM on May 05, 2003

I watched the game last night with a Rangers fan and a Leafs fan. I, obviously, am a Bruins fan. What can unite the fans of these three completely different teams? Hatred of the Flyers. I have no idea why, but only Flyers fans don’t hate the Flyers. There were cheers all around with each Ottawa goal. I guess I’m still rooting for the Wild now, but it really doesn’t matter as long as the (terrifically boring) Devils don’t go home with the cup.

posted by Samsonov14 at 09:09 AM on May 06, 2003

I think the Flyers offend because they've had so much potential for so long and never gone anywhere with it. No heart. And for us B's fans, there's always the 70s rivalry to reach back to.

posted by kokaku at 09:57 AM on May 06, 2003

I hate the Flyers because of Bobby Clarke. Not when he was a player (even though he was a bastard then), but now that he's a general manager. The way he handled the Lindros affair (a player I don't like but hate less than Clarke) showed that he's an absolute ass. Throw in the fact that he kept blaming EVERYTHING bad about the Flyers on Lindros (whether he was playing or not) and you get a man who should have been tanked a while back. If he survives this off-season, it'll be another joyous year of laughing at the Flyers. For the record, here is my "cheer" rank for the teams that are left in the playoffs: 1) Ottawa - it pains me as a Leaf fan, but if they win the Stanley Cup it would be a nice vindication for all the problems they've had this year. Plus I'll be able to say "Sure you won, but you didn't have to play the Leafs." and make their fans blow their top. :) 2) Anaheim - just because they are doing the impossible, and it's hard not to cheer for them. 3) Minnesota - just barely ahead of Vancouver, only because I have Gaborik in my playoff hockey pool and he's given me a chance to win over $200! Go Wild! 4) Vancouver - Morrison isn't getting enough points for me, so that's why the Canucks are so low on my cheer list. That said, I'd LOVE a Canuck/Senator final. 5) New Jersey - zzzzzzzzzzzz...whu? Sorry...I was thinking about how exciting this team is watchzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

posted by grum@work at 11:13 AM on May 06, 2003

Plus I'll be able to say "Sure you won, but you didn't have to play the Leafs." and make their fans blow their top. :) *fumes* ;-) A while back there was a poll on the Sens official website asking "what would you rather do, win the Cup or beat the Leafs?" and the latter outscored the former. Doing both this year would've been sweet, but I'll settle for Stanley. Right now I am only interested in seeing an Ottawa-Vancouver final, and not just for the all-Canadian angle. The two teams match up great and it'd probably be a classic. A final involving any of the other teams would likely be boring hockey. Also, while I respect what the team has accomplished this year, I will never, never, ever, ever cheer a Disney-owned team called the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. That franchise will never be cool.

posted by Succa at 11:39 AM on May 06, 2003

I'm with Succa on the Ottawa-Vancouver final...they're the only two teams that don't play that boring defensive style of hockey. Watching a Minnesota/New Jersey finals would be like watching paint dry (not to mention the 6 and 7 OT games...*yawn*).

posted by filmgoerjuan at 04:22 PM on May 06, 2003

I'm getting a little bit tired of this "boring defensive style" cliché. Did you see Minnesota's game last night? They were anything but boring. And Gaborik is a lot more exciting to watch than Big Bertuzzi standing in front of the net. Lazy columnists keep rehashing the "Devils or Lemaire = boring" equation. Don't buy it. Last night's backhand goal by Brunette was a thing of beauty. Celebrate the beauty.

posted by qbert72 at 05:15 PM on May 06, 2003

I think the fear is that a Minnesota/NJ final would be boring because Minnesota has the lowest scoring of the remaining West teams, and NJ has a habit of being very stingy with goals in the first place. I think Minnesota's game is fun to watch. They pounce on turnovers and capitalize.

posted by grum@work at 05:47 PM on May 06, 2003

grum: Minnesota has the lowest scoring of the remaining West teams May I counter? The Stingy award should probably go to the Mighty Ducks, who have 3rd lowest GAA and lowest GFA of the remaining teams. Still, why is it that so many people equate good hockey with lots of goals? You just need one more goal than your opponent. The Ducks know it. Why do North American need so many points in their sports?

posted by qbert72 at 07:49 PM on May 06, 2003

qbert72: May I counter with a larger sampling? Of the remaining teams, they had the least amount of goals scored in the regular season. And New Jersey had 50 less goals than Ottawa did in the regular season. Low-scoring vs low-scoring equals, uh, low scoring. And it's not the need for "so many points", but the need for "chances on getting a point" that we like so much. And when you are talking about the two stingiest teams in giving up goals (same link) remaining in the playoffs, it doesn't project to too many chances either. I really don't get a thrill watching a game that would be played mainly between the blue lines.

posted by grum@work at 08:49 PM on May 06, 2003

Still, why is it that so many people equate good hockey with lots of goals? There's not a direct correlation. I've seen plenty of exciting 1-0 hockey games. The excitement comes from the buildup, the skill, the passes and shots and saves, and at crucial parts of the game, the strategy. The lament-du-jour is that the game is becoming purely "systems hockey" -- that is, teams playing within a defensive cocoon, stultifying any flow in the game, keeping it tight, and not allowing many of the aforementioned excitement-builders. A good strategic battle can be a trip but watching a whole game of the trap never gets the plane off the tarmac. Any team in the NHL is capable of playing an exciting game from time to time. Hell, Minnesota's had a couple of beauties this year. The Devils though, I don't think I've ever seen them play an exciting game since the beginning of time. It comes from having the best puckhandling goalie in the game (Brodeur) ready to engulf every single dump-in attempt, and also from years of honing the trap to perfection. Bertuzzi is fun to watch when he's got a comparable opponent. Anyone who watched Detroit-Vancouver last year remembers the epic wars he waged with Chelios. And with Vancouver meeting the Sens...can you say Bertuzzi vs Chara? Damn.

posted by Succa at 08:55 PM on May 06, 2003

The Devils though, I don't think I've ever seen them play an exciting game since the beginning of time. Good Lord! The Devils are the new Flyers: everybody hates them with a passion. Wasn't Turner Stevenson's goal incredible? He makes one of those every three years. Celebrate the beauty! :-)

posted by qbert72 at 10:00 PM on May 06, 2003

A couple of years ago (I think 2000-2001, when they went on to lose to the Avs in the finals), the Devils were the highest-scoring team in the NHL...

posted by andrewraff at 10:30 PM on May 06, 2003

Quick stat check! Highest scoring teams in NHL, by year: 1994-95 - Quebec 185 goals (NJ 136, tied for 12th) (short season) 1995-96 - Pittsburgh 362 goals (NJ 215, 25th) 1996-97 - Pittsburgh 285 goals (NJ 231, 16th) 1997-98 - St. Louis 256 goals (NJ 225, 9th) 1998-99 - Toronto 268 goals (NJ 248, 2nd) 1999-00 - Detroit 278 goals (NJ 251, 2nd) 2000-01 - NJ 295 goals (Pittsburgh 281, 2nd) 2001-02 - Vancouver 254 goals (NJ 205, tied for 20th) 2002-03 - Detroit 269 goals (NJ 216, 14th) andrewraff was correct.

posted by grum@work at 11:24 PM on May 06, 2003

Speaking of high sticks, it was a Hossa high stick that took out Brian Berard's eye and almost ruined his career. It at least destroyed the Leafs defense for several seasons.

posted by insomnyuk at 11:33 PM on May 06, 2003

"Celebrate the beauty." (qbert, square on!) If that's not what it's all about, I don't know what is. The turn-over conversion, lifting the stick and saving a goal on the back-ckeck, the slight contact for a deflection just below the cross-bar, the sharp angle shot banking in off the leg of the tender, the drop pass picking up the D joining the rush, the incessant cycle down low ending with a one-timer against the grain, the pass off the back of the net, walking out in front, the un/lucky bounce, leading the man just out of the box, the unconscious save off the third rebound attempt, the blind and legal open ice hits, the water bottle in an orbital spin. These are some of the reasons why we all watch. The Accute Bettman Syndrome(ABS), otherwise referred to as a lack of scoring in the NHL, is plainly irrelevant. We all know an ugly game of hockey; a continuous failure on the break-out, the errant second pass, the contagious turn-overs. And I think we all know a 'good' game. The beauty is that someone has to win, as is common in all games. No matter how futile the offense, nor how stalwart the D. The 'build up', (thanks succa) is what makes the game the game.

posted by garfield at 12:33 AM on May 07, 2003

Lazy columnists keep rehashing the "Devils or Lemaire = boring" equation. Don't buy it. I halfway agree with you here. I don’t think the Wild are boring at all. They’re the Bad News Bears of hockey (except for Gaborik and the two kids in goal) and they just work hard, and work as a team. It’s actually pretty difficult to not be a fan when you watch them hustle for 60 minutes a game. I watched a Devils game and then a Wild game last week with two friends, and the question of why the Devils are boring to watch and the Wild aren’t came up. The closest that we would come to a real answer is that the Wild look like they work for every blocked passing lane or outlet pass. Maybe it because they’re more skilled, but the Devils make it look easy – like they’re just floating around, clogging up the ice. I don’t know if that’s a sufficient answer, but I know that I’ll pause a Wild game for a cigarette break. The Devils, on the other hand, don’t make me worry about missing an exciting play because it only happens four or five times in 60 minutes with them on the ice. I'll admit to a serious dislike for the Flyers, Canadiens, and Rangers. The Devils I just find painful to watch.

posted by Samsonov14 at 09:26 AM on May 07, 2003

Gaborik working his magic is a major reason to watch. Every time he's on the ice, even without the puck, you notice him. He keeps elite company as being 'noticeable,' with Mogilny, Modano, Naslund, etc. He's still developing, but is well on his way to greatness. If he looks this offensively dominant playing for Jacques, I know I'll be enjoying Marian highlight reels for years to come.

posted by garfield at 09:38 AM on May 07, 2003

The Devils, on the other hand, don’t make me worry about missing an exciting play because it only happens four or five times in 60 minutes with them on the ice. I think the Devils get a serious boost from the officiating. Not that it's biased towards them specifically, but the lack of obstruction, hooking, and interference calls favors their clogging play. The Bruins series was miserable - I think there was a game where it was 5 PPs for NJ and the B's had 1 or maybe none (yeah, I'll admit that the B's make stupid mistakes, but it's doubtful NJ was that clean). That to me is the death of hockey. Watching Euro hockey on the larger ice is a thing of beauty. Room to skate and pass, build up speed, make nice moves. More skill comes into play.

posted by kokaku at 09:48 AM on May 07, 2003

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