Saturday, March 8, 2008

Boys in red, white and blue fall to the boys in black and gold; boys in black and white stripes

Capitals 1, Bruins 2

Anyone know any Bruins fans? And if so, care to ask them what the going rate is for a referee these days?

If the Capitals miss the playoffs this year there will plenty of people who are scapegoated. Glen Hanlon, for the way the team started the season. Olaf Kolzig for his prolonged slump and for failing to live up to the standards his better years have set. Karma for the injuries to Chris Clark and Alexander Semin. George McPhee and Ted Leonsis because...well there's always someone who tries to blame it on them. But if the Capitals miss qualifying for the playoffs by just a point or two, there are two more names to remember: Chris Rooney and Rob Martell.

As a hockey fan, coach or player you have to accept that referees aren't perfect; refs who are too lenient or too harsh are just a fact of life. Inconsistency is harder to swallow but it too is just a fact of life, as the reality is that the game moves incredibly fast, especially at the NHL level, and two pairs of eyes aren't going to catch everything. But to intimidated as a referee, which is seemed pretty clear Martell and Rooney were in Saturday's game.

They looked intimidated by the crowd at the game's outset, and in the game's opening six or seven minutes they missed a hit from behind on Mike Green, a hit up high on Green when he didn't have the puck, an interference call where Zdeno Chara played Alex Ovechkin instead of the puck and a play when a Bruins player had Nicklas Backstrom bent over the Bruins bench and gave him several punches to the back of the head. To let those penalties go and then call Tom Poti for knocking the net off when it wasn't clearly intentional doesn't make any sense to me.

Later the duo looked intimidated by the fact that one of the league's star players had just been hit hard, calling a cheap penalty on the Bruins after Shane Hnidy got in a solid check on Alexander Ovechkin.

They looked intimidated by the crowd, Matt Cooke's reputation, the sight of Bruins' Bobby Allen defenseman laying on the ice and the fear that they would be perceived as not taking enough action and gave Cooke the gate for what should have been a minor penalty.

Again bowing to the mercy of the crowd, there was no call on Hnidy for going up high on Brashear late in the game.

Yet again bowing to the crowd (and perhaps player reputation), the referees called John Erskine for a hook when a Bruins player lost his balance. Either that or "being in he vicinity of a falling player" is a two minute minor these days.

At least they got those minors on Nicklas Backstrom and Chara as time expired though. That'll sure show the boys!

This is not to say the Capitals didn't screw up late in the game. Brashear's four minutes for high-sticking were bad and although Hnidy should have been called for roughing or unsportsmanlike conduct, Brashear should have known better than to take a swing at matter how much the B's defenseman deserved it. Similarly Tom Poti's two-time two-hander to break a Bruins player's stick was an unacceptable penalty to take. It's telling when it's a tied game, with less than two minutes left and the two players sitting in the box are two of the wearing 'A''s.

The Caps got some boneheaded plays out of guys who were supposed to be their leaders, but I still think the referees who were more concerned with pandering to the crowd or to the league office were the ones who made the difference in this one.

Quick Hits

  • During the first intermission the Bruins asked Milan Jurcina what I think is a very pertinent question for Capitals fans: "You concerned at all Ovechkin, in a goal celebration, will hurt himself or one of his teammates?"

  • It's funny to watch games broadcast by the opposition - right before the Capitals first goal the Bruins commentators were saying that the Bruins had done a great job generating momentum to start the game. When the Capitals scored their first goal, they had six shots and the Bruins had none. The Capitals would go on to register nine shots before Boston puck a puck on Cristobal Huet. Also becuase you get to hear things like 'If I can just do the math quickly in my head, the Bruins have outshot the Capitals 13-4 in this period' followed by, 'Just to show you how good I am at quick math - the Bruins outshot Washington 10-9 in that period'.


The Tar Heel said...

Speaking of quick hits. Props to Brashear for the straight left-hand to Shane Hnidy. Dude went down like THAT. He was on the ice before he knew what hit him...Too bad it turned into a triple-minor that essentially cost the Caps the game.

DMG said...

No one was more deserving than Hnidy either. I'd contend the phantom hook on John Erskine was at least as costly, though.