On my way back home from seeing the Preds eliminate the Wings this morning, my wife and I listened to nonstop hockey talk on XM (yes I know I am a lucky man). Pretty much all we heard was about how the officials had not controlled the games and that is why there were so many fights and cheap shots. That got me thinking and made me do a little research. What I found shocked me, and I already thought that I was right.
First for my theory.
I have watched all of the Nashville/Detroit games in the playoffs (two live), and as many of the other games as I can watch without losing my job. In those games it seemed to me that the more penalties that were called the more there were major incidents. So, with that in mind I decided to do some home work and this is what I found.
There has been an 42% increase in penalty minutes in the playoffs vs the regular season as of this morning. Out of the 16 teams in round one, 13 of the teams have an increase of 1 penalty minute or more in the playoffs. Now I know that some will say there are more PIM because of the fights and dirty play, but I disagree. I say the increase in calls leads to more fights and dirty plays.
Lets take the Preds/Wings series. Overall it was one of the cleanest series after the first game. In that game, there were 17 penalties called. This is in a game that was between the two least penalized teams in the NHL. Everything was called, even things that did not happen. The players could not get into a flow because there was a penalty called every 3 1/2 minutes on average. This frustrates players, as was proof in what happened at the end of the game. Now flash forward to last night and there where only 5 combined penalties and it was a clean game.
Now some might say that the two things have nothing to do with each other but lets look at another series. Philly and Pit have had a very interesting series. In game 3 there were 35 penalties for 158 penalty minutes. Now 80 of those were 10 minute penalties, but that leaves 78 minutes for 2, 4, and 5 minute penalties. The next game in the series there were 100 penalty minutes. Another rough game. But in Game 5, these same two teams that hate each other only had 16 and it was a clean game.
What happened, did they all get religion between the two games? No, the game was allowed to be played. The players were allowed to concentrate on the game and were not frustrated at the officials. Remember folks, when one player is frustrated at another player he can solve it on the ice. When the players are frustrated at the officials, who are they going to take it out on? The players.
So, in my humble opinion, refs, swallow your whistles until there is a true need for them. Allow the players to set the pace and tone of the game. When there is an obvious penalty, a game changer, a cheap shot, then blow the whistle. I bet that you will have cleaner games, and as a bonus, us fans would rather you let them play (as long as you call it even) than you seemingly trying to teach the best hockey players on planet Earth the rules of the game.