Thursday, May 7, 2009

Yes, it was a bad call, but...


It's not often when a hockey story leads ESPN's TV show, "Pardon the Interruption." It's even rarer when that story is about anything good.

Such was the case in Wednesday's episode, which led with the no-goal call near the end of Game 3 of the Detroit-Anaheim series. And let's be honest, it was a really bad call.

The hockey talk on PTI isn't often all that educated - a fact that hosts Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon readily admit - and while they were correct in their criticism of the call, they chose to overlook a few things.

First and foremost, Detroit still had one minute left to score, which is enough time when you need just one goal. Second, perhaps more importantly, PTI talked about the injustice of Detroit being down 2-1 in the series, failing to acknowledge that Detroit could already be leading in the series if it hadn't lost Game 2 at home not to mention the fact that there was zero guarantee that the Red Wings would've won Game 3. It's not like the goal would've put Detroit ahead only to have Anaheim win in overtime; it only would've tied the game, and as I just said, Anaheim might have ended up winning anyway. To say Detroit is trailing 2-1 because of the officiating is foolhardy.

About all that can really be said is maybe the Red Wings were denied the opportunity to get to overtime, but...

Detroit had 58 minutes leading up to the controversial call and managed to score just once. The Wings had two power plays late in the game, one which shouldn't have been because Tomas Holmstrom got away with a blatant elbow on Anaheim defenseman James Wisniewski that left the blueliner bloodied and eventually taken off on a stretcher - though the elbow wasn't the sole reason for that. The Red Wings converted the first power play - Scott Niedermayer was called for hooking Holmstrom in the same sequence when Holmstrom elbowed Wisniewski - but failed to score on the second power play.

One bad no-call in Detroit's favor, one bad call in Anaheim's favor. These things even out.

The PTI hosts also didn't seem aware that the timing of the whistle plays no part in when a play ends. It's when the referee decides the play is dead. There is a delay from that point until he blows the whistle. This is not the NBA where the referees stand around with their whistles in their mouths.

PTI called for a rule change, but I don't see that happening. As Minnesota fans can attest, bad things can happen. They'll need to tell me which game it was exactly, as I forget, but Nik Backstrom once had the puck clearly covered, referee Steve Kozari, rather than blow the play dead, tried to find the puck, allowing the opposition to hack away at it and eventually jar it loose for a goal.

In situations like that, injuries can occur, and that is why there shouldn't be a rule change.

This will be of no comfort to Detroit fans, but this is also not the first time a play like this has occurred. Officials are human, mistakes happen, and players and coaches - and fans - have to deal with it. Officiating should rarely, if ever, be blamed for a loss.

Play your best game, convert your scoring opportunities, limit your opponent's capability to score, and take care of business before the waning moments of a game when a call might go against you. Detroit didn't do that, and it didn't win.

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