The decision to rescind the instigator penalty Evgeni Malkin picked up at the end of Game Two of the Stanley Cup Finals on Sunday night says more about the increasing league control of the NHL and NBA Playoffs than it does about Gary Bettman's love affair with the Penguins.
Sure, since Sidney Crosby became a Pittsburgh Penguin, the league has put all their marketing eggs in his basket. And as a result, the league has, in my opinion, bent over backwards for the Penguins. All you have to do is look at the scheduling of the Finals.
The Red Wings are banged up, with several stars sitting out. So naturally, the league schedules the first two games of the NHL Finals on back-to-back days. Now they keep Malkin available for Game Three.
The instigator rules are in the books to keep players (and coaches) from sending messages at the end of games. Malkin swinging his stick, dropping his gloves, and throwing punches at Henrik Zetterberg (well before Zetterberg dropped his) is a clear case of Malkin sending a message at the end of a Penguins loss.
Malkin has a history of this type of outburst. He should have been suspended during the playoffs last year after slew-footing the Rangers Paul Mara twice in the final moments of Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals (also a Penguins loss).
But rescinding the Malkin instigator penalty (and the one-game suspension that goes along with it) is just a continuation of a disturbing trends during the spring playoff season. Scott Walker of the Carolina Hurricanes also had his late game instigator penalty rescinded after starting a fight with Aaron Ward of the Bruins.
And I cannot even count all of the ex-post-facto changes made by the NBA during the playoffs.
While all playoff games should be reviewed by the leagues, this new trend of changing the results after the fact must stop. The NBA is not far removed from a gambling scandal involving a referee. Changing the results of a game after the fact—behind closed doors in the league offices—just feeds the fire of those who think that the leagues have agendas as to who wins these games.
I'm all for instant replay during a game—anything to make sure that the right call is made. During the game. But as soon as the game ends, the game should be over.
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