NHL Playoffs: Was That a Penalty I Just Saw There?

Bill SearsCorrespondent IMay 9, 2008

It looked like a penalty. It fits the rulebook's description of a penalty. Wait, what period is it? Oh, late in the third and the game is close. No, never mind the blood, the game is on the line. 

Enough is enough already. Rules are rules and penalties are penalties, and they should be called as such.

We hear all kinds of things about why the games are called the way they are this time of year, from "they're just letting them play" to "the officials don't want to make a call that could determine the outcome of the game."

Well, isn't that their job? Not to determine the outcome but to make the calls. The official calling a penalty is not what could determine the outcome of the game; it was the player who committed the penalty. 

Game Six of the Stars-Sharks series is a good example of how the officials in trying not to impact the outcome in fact did just the opposite. From the middle of the second period until the early in the third overtime, there was not a  single penalty called.

Basically, what this did was change the way the players were playing. The further along the game went, the nastier the scraps and later the hits. Now, there is nothing wrong with big hits, but three and four strides after the puck is gone is just late.

The penalty on Campbell that led to the Stars winning goal was a penalty. However, after all of the non-calls before it, everyone was stunned that it was called. Campbell may have even thought he could get away with it. After all it was just a little trip.

Don't get me wrong, even with four guys calling the game, things do simply get missed when none of them are looking that way. But there is a huge difference between a couple of missed calls and shoving the whistle in their pocket for 70 minutes.

In Game One of the Western Conference Finals between Dallas and Detroit, a call was made that put the Red Wings on a two-man advantage. That call has been heavily criticized. The argument is that while it could have been a penalty, it wasn't a bad one and to put a team on a five-on-three for that kind of call just isn't right.

Well, why not? Why isn't it right? Did the penalty occur or not? If it did, then what difference does it make if the team was already on a power play?

The players are professionals. They know the rules. If they break those rules, then call the penalty. To do otherwise, especially in an inconsistent way, is what really impacts the outcome of the games.