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THN.com Playoff Blog: Officiating plays big role in Flyers' Game 7 win over Caps

Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals shakes the hand of Mike Richards of the Flyers after Philadelphia's overtime win in Game 7. (Photo by Len Redkoles/Getty Images)

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Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals shakes the hand of Mike Richards of the Flyers after Philadelphia's overtime win in Game 7. (Photo by Len Redkoles/Getty Images)

Some of you may be aware of my feelings about the futility that is complaining too much about NHL officiating. But I never said it’s wrong to complain every once in a while.

And the performance of the duo of veteran referees Don Koharski and Paul Devorski in Philadelphia’s 3-2 overtime win over Washington Tuesday has to be noted, because it was simply abhorrent.

If there were a way to get a police sketch artist to encapsulate Koharski and Devorski’s wildly varying in-game assessments – featured by a stretch in which no penalties were called from the 13:27 mark of the second period to Tom Poti’s chintzy tripping minor 4:15 into OT that led to Joffrey Lupul’s game-winner at 6:06 – I’d transfer that image to thousands of Wanted: Dead Or Alive posters and start fundraising immediately to raise as much money as possible for a reward.

Making matters worse, if it weren’t for another blown call in the second period, the Caps might’ve won their Eastern Conference first-round series in regulation time. Both refs completely missed Patrick Thoresen checking Shaone Morrisonn into Cristobal Huet, which knocked the Caps goalie far out of his crease and left a wide-open net for the Flyers' Sami Kapanen to score into and make it 2-1 Philly.

It isn’t my intent to challenge the integrity of either Devorski or Koharski. I don’t blame them for missing a call or two. And, to be fair, they missed penalties on Capitals players as well as those from the Flyers.

I do, however, blame the league if it (a) cannot comprehend how awful it appears when their officials put away the whistles late in important games, and (b) take the appropriate steps – as rapidly and doggedly as they did in creating the Sean Avery Rule – to ensure this type of debacle never happens again.

It’s getting to be a sick joke, and I’m tired of groaning at the punchline.

• Put your angry email trigger finger down, Flyers fans. Full marks have to go to your young, learning-on-the-job group of players for their series win. And coach John Stevens deserves to have some legitimate confidence heading into the second round.

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Despite some shaky moments, goalie Martin Biron demonstrated the ability to contribute prominently to, if not outright steal, a game or two for his team. And grizzled vets such as Derian Hatcher, Jason Smith and Kimmo Timonen came through with gutsy performances on Philly’s blueline.

If the Flyers can continue their rugged play – and continue to get away with it – they stand a decent shot at upsetting their next opponents, the Montreal Canadiens.

However, if the officiating swings against them – and after Tuesday’s inexplicable, indefensible performance from the refs, you can’t dismiss the possibility – Philadelphia will need Biron to rescue them more than they needed him to against the Caps.

• Put your angry email trigger finger down, Capitals fans. I’m saving my thoughts on your team until my web column Thursday. This team is worthy of more than a blog item.

THN.com's Playoff Blogs, featuring analysis and opinion on the action from the night before, with insight on what happened and what it all means going forward, will appear daily throughout the NHL playoffs. Read more entries HERE.

Adam Proteau is The Hockey News' online columnist and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his Ask Adam feature appears Tuesdays and Fridays, and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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