The Matt Cooke Hit, NHL Officiating, and The Time is Right

When Matt Cooke first hit Adam McQuaid in Game 1 my immediate reaction was that McQuaid saw the hit coming, turned into it, and then exaggerated the impact in typical Bruins diving fashion. In hindsight, although it’s irrefutable that McQuaid did put himself in a vulnerable position, I do believe that the 5 minute major was the right call, if not the game misconduct.

mcquaid-cooke

Unfortunately, when the officials had the opportunity to effectively legislate the way this series would be played, they screwed it up.

When Brad Marchand hit James Neal, just as squarely in the back, with a longer run up to the contact, and without the benefit of Neal having ever seen Marchand it seemed easy for the officials to “settle the score” and give a five and a game to Marchand as well. And they didn’t. They proved just how subjective their sensibilities are and only assessed Marchand with a 2 minute minor. If you want to look at the turning point of this game, look no further. The NBC analysts and local talking heads have persisted in the last couple of days with the notion that the BRUINS frustrated the Penguins. The Bruins did not. The officials did. It just so happened that as a smart team the Bruins were then able to jump on the simmering aggression of the Penguins and exploit it.

The old adage from referees in the NHL is that come playoff time the best thing is to “let them play.” That the refs don’t want to skew the results of a game because they assessed more penalties to one team than the other. But that’s just stupid. Typically penalties are the result of dumb, slow, undisciplined, or unskilled play by the offending team. As such that means that if you don’t call the penalties as they occur then you are actually helping the offending team by overlooking their inequalities. If two teams are evenly matched they should end up committing and drawing essentially the same number of penalties without any “help” from the referees. But as long as they continue to force their way into the game, things are almost disgusting. Meesh had a post on this awhile ago and it would be great to see what could have happened if others had taken up the charge to continue reporting on ref stupidity.

It doesn’t look like the Penguins are planning any lineup changes for tonight’s game but our thought after Game 1 was that this could be a great series for Simon Despres. There’s no doubt that Mark Eaton and Kris Letang looked a little vulnerable in Game 1, they each were responsible for a goal that the Bruins did not deserve to score and they just seemed a little out of sorts. Adding Despres is a proven technique to convince Letang to slow down and simplify his game. Adding Despres will also cut down Boston’s forecheck ability. The best way to counter the Bruins is to pass the puck out of the zone before they have an opportunity to get into their cycle. Simon Despres is going to be a lot better at that than Mark Eaton. This seems like a pretty easy trade to make. Despres isn’t going to be a downgrade in the hitting department either and that seems like a necessity against this Bruins team.

You have to play the best players, especially against Boston

You have to play the best players, especially against Boston

And you thought I was going to talk about Marc-Andre Fleury didn’t you?

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