The absence of a swift and firm response by the referees to Sidney Crosby's repeated slash to the glove hand of Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov prior to the fisticuffs became an officiating turning point in the game. This spark ignited the ever-present combustible fuel that exists when these two teams meet and caused player hostilities to boil over and continue throughout most of the game. The officials had to continually battle back from this early incident in an
attempt to exert and maintain control.
Every game has an ebb and flow; a heartbeat and a temperature that rises and falls throughout. This is especially true in a playoff series when player aggression and "hatred" (perceived or stated) escalates. It is incumbent upon the referees to know when to impose themselves to control the temperature of the game through appropriate application of the rules. The "when" and "how" results from an acute feel for the game.
Action in an around the goal crease, contact with the goalie and dangerous or high hits are always "hot spots" that draw a crowd resulting in scrums and should always be high on the ref's radar screen.
Once Crosby swatted at the glove hand of Bryzgalov as the play was blown dead, Voracek led the cavalry charge and wrestled with Crosby. This was the perfect opportunity for the referee(s) to impose themselves and establish game control. A swift and forceful reaction by the referee behind the goal line to impose a slashing and roughing minor to Crosby in addition to a roughing minor to the Flyers' Voracek would have ended the incident in this moment. The linesmen would have escorted the two players to the penalty box swiftly and nothing further would have developed at that point and time. A Flyers power play would have also sent an early message to avoid contact with the goalkeepers at both ends of the ice.
Due to a lack of response by the referees on this initial incident, tornados of player hostility were allowed to spawn elsewhere which resulted in two fights and game ejections to key players from both teams a minute or two later. The stage was set and the match was lit for what followed.
A swift and correct penalty assessment was imposed by the referee on Brayden Schenn's charge and Arron Asham's match penalty that followed. There is no question a suspension will result for Asham. The only question will be how many games?
Andrew and Jason, you have asked about the late, high hit that James Neal threw on Claude Giroux. I am going to back up a shift or two and provide you with another game temperature check. This one occurred when Neal left his feet and leveled Sean Couturier as the Flyer was turning in the neutral zone without the puck and unaware of impending contact.
The fact James Neal left his feet and moved slightly right into Couturier prior to impact eliminates any free pass I might have given the Pens star that this was just an accidental collision. James Neal saw Sean Couturier on the road ahead and in his lane. This should have been identified as interference or charging and James Neal placed in the penalty box. Player hostilities intensified on the Flyers bench as Couturier was lifted from the ice and helped to the dressing room.
James Neal subsequently tracked Claude Giroux from behind and delivered a high open ice hit that threw gasoline on a fire that was already burning. Giroux stumbled like a wounded deer following the contact. There was no apparent response by the referees as you suggest on this play to identify the infraction and in an attempt to bring the temperature down. The players then took matters into their own hands.
Jakub Voracek once again led the charge and was the first to chase James Neal to the Pittsburgh players' bench followed closely by Scott Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds. Crosby grabbed Hartnell from behind and the captain's involvement became the catalyst for Craig Adams to unload on the back of Hartnell's head.
James Neal was already on the Pittsburgh bench when the scrum ensued. The Flyers players were attempting to get at him in retaliation. Once the dust settled a discussion between all the officials resulted to sort out the penalties. Hindsight being 20-20, it was likely determined that a charging penalty needed to be assessed to James Neal as the cause of the altercation.
The additional 10-minute misconduct assessed to James Neal on this exchange demonstrates the "pro-active" measures that a referee(s) should take to bring the temperature down or at least remove the pot from the stove.
This was wise decision on the part of the Officials even if it came at 15:18 of the third period. My advice to the refs in all the playoff games is to have their thermometers ready following the opening puck drop and to take the game temperature frequently.
It is the best measuring devise they can utilize to keep the "hate" from boiling over.
Refs lost control in Philly
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Posted 16 April 2012 - 03:26 PM
Bring Back Murph!
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