The Avs Stick it to the Lightning...Barely
Photo by Doug Benc (Getty)
Rule 26.4 Infractions – During the Course of a Penalty Shot - A goal will be awarded when a goalkeeper attempts to stop a penalty shot by throwing his stick or any other object at the player taking the shot or by deliberately dislodging the goal.
Let's get this out of the way first: I think it was a bad call.
In case you missed it, the Avalanche won in the shootout last night, largely thanks to a controversial call by the refs. On the Avs' 2nd shootout attempt, Milan Hejduk's shot was stopped by Tampa Bay's Mike Smith. But Smith lost control of his stick in the process, and after a ridiculously long conference, the refs - including Tim Peel, who earlier had announced a penalty to "Edmonton's Ryan Smyth" - decided that Smith had thrown his stick and Hejduk was awarded a goal. The Lightning bench erupted into unchartable levels of tizziness and the fans began throwing debris onto the ice. A few seconds later, Andrew Raycroft made an excellent glove save on Martin St Louis to seal the victory (and bringing on a fresh new round of Tampa protests - Ryan Malone and Mike Smith were both given 10 minute misconducts for abuse of officials). To be honest, the Avalanche benefited from the officiating all night long - there were several Colorado infractions that didn't get called in the game, although the only one I can pull from the deep recesses of my brain right now is the Scott Hannan elbow on St Louis.
They shouldn't have needed the help.
Once again, the Avalanche burst out of the starting blocks ready to play. The game had few whistles - especially early on - and the Avs were controlling the play for much of it. The Avs were intercepting passes and keeping the puck from leaving the Tampa zone with tenacity. For the 2nd straight game, Paul Stastny opened the scoring at the 3:46 mark, banging home a Ryan Smyth rebound in the crease.
Exactly 7 minutes into the 2nd period, I had a thought. The Avalanche were up 1-0. The were playing very well and each of the 4 lines had at least one excellent shift by that point. The problem was, they really should have been up 2-0 or even 3-0...and that doesn't even count David Jones fanning on the puck in front of a wide open net. They just weren't able to turn all the puck control, all the takeaways, all the time spent in the Lightning zone into great scoring chances...or even average scoring chances. It's very odd to say that even though the Avalanche had 35 shots and Mike Smith was given the 1st star for his strong play. I really felt that Colorado should have had more to show for it - if not goals, than at least shots. By a similar token, I don't know where Tampa got 38 shots from. It's like I was watching the wrong game.
Anyway, after making the mental note above, I knew what was going to happen and it didn't take long; Jeff Halpern scored just 35 seconds later. Of course it would be Halpern - he always seems to play well against Colorado and he was playing in his first game of the year.
And that was it for the scoring. The puck didn't get past either Raycroft or Smith the rest of the way. Of course, both goalies played very well. The much maligned (at the M Double-H, anyway) Raycroft started off a little shaky and then gathered steam as the game wore on (he was absolutely money in the shootout). He also sometimes looked more lucky than good when making his saves. Both of those attributes reminded me very much of Jose Theodore. I just wrote that sentence, and I'm still trying to decide if that's a compliment or a criticism. I guess I'll have to reserve judgment for now - I have a feeling we'll be seeing more from Mr Raycroft in the near future.
Ben Guite and Darcy Tucker made their return to the lineup. Philippe Dupuis was sent down after the last game, and Cody McCormick was the healthy scratch. Curiously, TJ Hensick was not scratched but was demoted to the 4th line - a line McCormick would probably have been better suited for. Despite getting the Brad Richardson treatment, I thought Hensick played well.
- Smyth, Stastny, Hejduk
- Wolski, Arnason, Jones
- Tucker, Laperriere, Stewart
- McLeod, Guite, Hensick
On D, Ruslan Salei returned after being scratched for Tjarmin. He played with Jordan Leopold, but the bulk of the ice time went to the other 4 D.
- Stastny now has 11 points in 10 games wearing the A
- Wojtek Wolski was stopped in the shootout for the first time all season
- The Lightning had more blocks (19) than the Avs (12) - it's not often that the Avs are on the losing end of those battles.
The Avs are in Miami on Sunday to take on the Panthers. There are a couple of ex-Avs on the roster - Brett McLean, Karlis Skrastins and Keith Ballard (who only sort-of counts - but the real side story will be the chance to see the Stewart brothers play against each other for the first time in the NHL.
I think it was a bad call, that Smith just dropped his stick after making a kinda-sorta save on Hedgie’s initial attempt. That was what seemed to tick a steamed Smith off the most after the game - that Hejduk was wrongly rewarded after he made the first stop on the shootout attempt. - Adrian Dater, All Things Avs
"There was a strong feeling that this stick was thrown," said Mike Murphy, NHL senior vice president of operations, to a pool reporter. "And when it's thrown on a penalty shot, a goal is awarded.'' - Aaron J Lopez, Rocky Mountain News
And for the Tampa announcers, the stick was most definitely out of Smith's hand before the save was made. Saying it wasn't out of his hands over and over again doesn't make it so. - Shane Giroux, Avs Talk (I watched the same feed and this was, indeed, hilarious)
The problem wasn't the call, however, it was the fact that the officials couldn't review the play. Seen from the ice in real time, I'm sure it did look like he threw the stick. If the officials could've seen even just the exact same view a second time, they probably wouldn't have made that call. However, it's like the umpire during a baseball game - they're apparently not supposed to have the benefit of instant replay for the shoot out and get stuck with making a judgment call on something they've seen just once. - Cassie, Bolts Blog
If the officials are going to make that call, they have to be sure. I don’t think they were sure. Of course, nobody had the opportunity to ask them if they were sure because the league would not make any of them available to speak to a pool reporter after the game - Erik Erlendsson, Bolts Report
By rule, the only reviewable aspect of the play is if the puck was in the net. - Damian Cristodero, St Petersburg Times
And why can't officials speak to reporters after a game? They basically gave one team the game over another and then they can't defend themselves? Tell me what you were thinking. Tell me why you ruled a certain way. Murphy said he didn't want the refs to be "trapped" by a "hot environment." Please. Dealing with the pressure is part of the job. If you can't face a bunch of reporters who would have asked simple questions, really, how can you handle the pressure of what's going on on the ice? - Damian Cristodero, Lightning Strikes
Tocchet called the decision "a tough one to swallow. My phone's been blowing up by NHL people that are friends of mine who said that's a terrible call," Tocchet said. Colorado coach Tony Granato said the referees' call was "gutsy" and "right." "If the goalie throws his stick in an attempt to stop a penalty shot or shootout opportunity, it's an automatic goal," Granato said. - AP
After Jussi Jokinen and Vinny Lecavalier missed on Tampa Bay's first two shootout opportunities, Marty St. Louis had a chance to extend the shootout but was stopped by Andrew Raycroft, who finished with 37 saves. - Erik Erlendsson, Tampa Bay Online
As the Avs filed off the ice in jubilation, they had to dodge plastic water bottles and other debris being tossed from the angry fans at the St. Pete Times Forum. - Adrian Dater, Denver Post
Forwards Ben Guite and Darcy Tucker returned to the Avalanche lineup after extended absences. Tucker missed 11 games because of a sprained left knee, while Guite sat out 17games recovering from a rib-cage injury. - Aaron J Lopez, Rocky Mountain News
"I am truly excited to be joining the Canucks (now that they don't suck)," said Sundin. "Once I made the decision to return to play a few weeks ago, the Vancouver opportunity was simply the
best overall fit most money. I want to thank Mike Gillis and the entire Canucks organization for their professionalism throughout this entire process while I sat on my fat ass for half the year." - Mats Sundin. [OOPS, How'd that get in there?]