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Stanley Cup Finals: The New NHL? Not so fast

It was Mario Lemieux who once referred to the NHL as a garage league, but after two games of the Stanley Cup Finals, I absolutely, positively refuse to go there.
Wouldn’t want to give garage leagues a bad name, you know.
After three rounds of competitive, compelling, entertaining playoff hockey, The New NHL has morphed into the old one all of a sudden. All of six minor penalties have been whistled thus far. Total.
At least a half-dozen infractions went overlooked both ways. Just when you thought that the league had entered the 21st Century finally, out of nowhere, the Let-‘em-play Official Rules were in effect again.
Can anyone tell me why the NHL would want to turn its showcase event into in the Roller Derby on Ice Championships? Pleeeeeze?
Let’s get this straight. The Penguins aren’t behind in the series because the refs gagged on their whistles or called it one way.
They trail for a lot of other reasons, but mostly because goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury allowed one soft goal in each game, which was one too many against a Red Wings team that has lots of talent and experience.
The point is, whether by design or sheer ineptness, the referees have missed what could be a great series here.
Take Game 2, for instance. After a face-off at the Red Wings end, forward Mikael Samuelsson impeded the progress of a Penguins player without regard to the puck. Several television commentators said it was sorta interference. Sorta interference? It’s either interference or not interference, and according to the 2008-09 Official Rules, that was interference.
On another play, Red Wings forward Marian Hossa clearly tied up the hands of a Penguins player with his stick in pursuit of the puck. No call.
On yet another, defenseman Niklas Kronwall accidentally on purpose moved into the path of an opponent before he attempted to make a play on the puck, which had been shot into the Red Wings zone. Once again, zippo.
I don’t know if the Reds Wings are the best team in the league, but I do know this much: When it comes to interference, these guys are the 1971-72 Boston Bruins and 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers rolled into one.
The two best saves weren’t made by a goaltender. They were made by Henrik Zetterberg, the Red Wings center. Illegally. In Game 1, he closed a hand on the puck while it lay on the back of the goaltender in the paint area. In Game 2, while prone on the ice, he cradled the puck with one of his arms near the goal line.
As a public service, Inside Pittsburgh Sports would like to introduce the referees to Rule 67.4 in the 2008-09 Official Rules : “Penalty Shot – If a player, except a goalkeeper, while play is in progress, falls on the puck, holds the puck, picks up the puck or gathers the puck into his body or hands from the ice in the goal crease area, the play shall be stopped immediately and a penalty shot shall be awarded to the non-offending team.”
Then there’s the instigator penalty on Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin in the final minute. Actually, Malkin didn’t instigate anything. He retaliated for some rough stuff by Zetterberg, who responded to an uncalled-for poke at his goaltender. Coincidental major penalties would have sufficed, but Malkin was singled out, anyway.
Fine. According to the 2008-09 Official Rules, Malkin should be suspended for one game. But the league honchos quickly rescinded the punishment because he didn’t violate the spirit of the rule, the kind of subjective call that leaves them open to criticism.
The real losers are the sport and its fans. The NHL has a wonderful opportunity to market some of the best athletes in the world on a grand stage in front of a national television audience.
It should want to put them in a position to display their skills and athleticism like the NBA does the LeBron Jameses and Kobe Bryants of the world, not put them in shackles and chains.
Seriously, any garage league commissioner would tell you that much.

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