STANLEY CUP FINALS GAMES ONE AND TWO: Sucky Bounces, Refs, Fleury

Sucky Thing 1: The Bounces

What in the name of Gummi Bear ripoffs is going on with the boards in this series? Did the Joe Louis Arena crew replace the boards with the bouncy walls from Scorched Earth? I kept expecting someone on Detroit to whip a funky bomb at Fleury. Is this an excuse for the first or second goals in Game One going in? Of course not. They were still pathetic efforts. But I’ve still never seen boards give such consistently ridiculous bounces.

Sucky Thing 2: The Refs

I almost never complain about officiating in games other than to occasionally point out poor reffing on an objective level, but rarely believe it’s ever the primary cause for a game’s outcome. Judgment calls go both ways, and even if a team is dealt a bonus power play or an unfortunate penalty to kill, it’s still up to the players on the ice to score or prevent a goal against, and even if a call puts them at a disadvantage, it doesn’t automatically alter the outcome of a game.

That being said, both the non-call on Hossa’s slash on Dupuis and the non-call on Zetterberg covering the puck in the crease (for the second straight game) were both beyond baffling, and go far beyond any simple “well it goes both ways” or “it’s a judgment call, the Pens got away with stuff too” diffusals. Hal Gill got away with interference a couple times. Mikael Samuelsson got away with an elbow on Jordan Staal. These are standard, angering non-calls in a loosely-called hockey game, and neither resulted in a scoring chance.

(Continued after the jump – trying to make the homepage look a little less like a giant pile of poetry word-magnets):

Hossa’s slash directly resulted in the second goal. He broke Dupuis’ stick, stole the puck, and set up the goal. No matter what would’ve happened on the Pens’ power play, that non-call directly affected the scoreboard, period. Again, this isn’t standard fan-whining about something that might’ve been a penalty; a slash resulting in a broken stick is ALWAYS called in the NHL, it’s right up there with high sticks to the face and shooting the puck over the glass in the category of just automatic penalty calls, even in overtime, and the refs never miss it. Did this cost the Pens the game? Again, no, this call did not. But at the risk of sounding like the whiny Flyer fan I’d be the first to mock, it was a factually incorrect call by any estimation that directly resulted in a goal, with no room for interpretation otherwise.

As for the Zetterberg puck coverage, I’m not even sure what to believe. In Game One, Zetterberg covered a puck on Chris Osgood’s back, which, if it had been on the ice, would’ve been an automatic and obvious penalty shot. I admittedly have never seen a puck covered on a goalie’s back like that, but surely it’s got to be viewed as the same situation, at least conceptually, right? Then in Game Two, he dove into the net and deliberately kept the puck out of the net, and possibly (though not confirmably on the replay) pulled it back over the line and essentially covered it again. I’m gonna stop all my base covering “I realize fans on both sides can always point out missed calls etc etc” yammering and just straight-up ask: how in the world was this not a penalty shot? Zetterberg literally made a goal not happen; this wasn’t an iffy holding call that might’ve resulted in a power play which might’ve resulted in a goal, it was a thing that literally took a goal off the board for the Penguins.

But I know, the league is biased for Crosby because they called like two penalties on people doing things to him this entire postseason, and the league wants the Penguins in the Finals and not the Rangers or the Bruins or the Blackhawks or the Capitals or the Kings or the Maple Leafs or any of the teams from media markets between five and ten times as large as the Penguins’, so I have no right to complain.

As for the people complaining about a lack of a suspension for Evgeni Malkin after his fight with Zetterberg at the end of Game Two, clearly, this is another case of the NHL giving special treatment to its high-profile superstars like Malkin, Scott WalkerMike Brown, Ryan Bayda…

Sucky Thing #3: Fleury

Fleury isn’t a great NHL goaltender. He’s just not. I’m tired of arguing about this and sounding like Whinyfan McKneejerk, but that third-period goal by Applicator (I’m not looking up how to spell his real name) was inexcusable, but was also no worse than goals he’s been giving up constantly throughout this entire postseason. Goals one and two in Game One were weird bounces, but still, could you EVER foresee Chris Osgood letting those in?

Aside from Game 4 against the Flyers and one or two games in the Hurrcanes series, how many “good” games has Fleury played this postseason? He’s played alternatingly “bad” and “decent with a couple horrible plays,” and he’s capable of letting in random, nonthreatening shots at any time in any game in any situation.

People often like to point out that he sometimes makes spectacular saves but has trouble with some simple plays, which is true (as though this is even a compliment anyway), but ALL NHL goalies are capable of making spectacular saves at times. Tomas Vokoun and Ilya Bryzgalov and Ty Conklin make great saves sometimes; Fleury doesn’t have some magical ability that other NHL goaltenders don’t possess. And yes, Fleury has stolen some games in the past (Game 5 against Detroit last year, for sure), but he’s no more or less likely to steal a game or make a spectacular save than just about any standard NHL goaltender, he’s just been on a successful team and thus garners far more attention for a spectacular save than, say, Pekka Rinne.

Many people interpret the fact that the Pens have made the Cup Finals two years in a row as empirical, no-brainer evidence to Fleury’s status as an elite goaltender, but in my estimation, this doesn’t supersede the equally no-brainer observation that he gives up bad goals more consistently often than any other goaltender on any currently prominent team. Ray Emery took his team to the Cup Finals. Dwayne Roloson took his team to the Cup Finals. And some washed-up, 36-year-old ex-Islanders backup goalie is on the verge of winning back-to-back Cups. Are any of these players elite NHL goaltenders?

Forget stealing games — if Fleury doesn’t start playing like a normal, steady NHL goalie, I won’t have to cancel my plans that overlap with Games 5 and 6.

Made it through a whole post without ripping on the D, Chris Kunitz, or the power play? Can’t tell if that’s a good or a bad sign.

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2 Responses to “STANLEY CUP FINALS GAMES ONE AND TWO: Sucky Bounces, Refs, Fleury”

  1. Oz Says:

    Sorry man, but the Hossa Slash wasn’t a slash. Check my blog for the video evidence.

  2. Sean Says:

    “Hossa’s slash directly resulted in the second goal. He broke Dupuis’ stick, stole the puck, and set up the goal. No matter what would’ve happened on the Pens’ power play, that non-call directly affected the scoreboard, period.”

    Wasn’t a slash — Dupuis broke his stick on Hossa’s skate — but the puck also left the zone during that shift while there were Wings in the zone. No offsides called.

    Still, nothing is as offensive as Zetterburg’s goaltending. Although a 1.000 save pct in the finals is impressive. Probably a record.

    But hey, who’s counting?

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