Both Henrik Zetterberg of the Red Wings and Max Talbot of the Penguins have played key roles in the first three games of the 2009 Stanley Cup final. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH – Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said all the right things for public consumption when he was asked about the Pittsburgh Penguins not being called for too many men on the ice during a crucial time in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final.
But as he walked away from the podium, he could be seen muttering, “Twenty-one seconds! Twenty-one seconds!”
That’s how long the Penguins played with six players on the ice, all the while cycling the puck in front of two referees and two linesmen who missed the entire thing.
All of which is excusable, but barely. What drives people to distraction is how obstruction can go unpunished by both teams countless times during the game, then get called midway through the third period, the way it was on Jonathan Ericsson, which led to the game-winning goal.
Isn’t it supposed to be different? In the new NHL, wasn’t an infraction in October supposed to be treated the same way as one in the Stanley Cup final?
All the players and the coaches want is consistency because they have a remarkable ability to adapt to any situation. Their attitude is to either call everything or nothing, but be consistent with it.
That, of course, flies in the face of everything the new NHL is supposed to represent. But old habits die hard, both among referees and players.
“It’s two great teams in the final and you want to let those teams play,” said Penguins winger Maxime Talbot. “You don’t want the game decided by power play, penalty killing.”
As long as that kind of attitude exists, expect more of the same in the NHL playoffs, where a penalty is a penalty, except when it comes to the playoffs.
But, hey, we shouldn’t be surprised that the NHL has trouble following its own edicts. After all, if the league had followed its rulebook, three-assist man and difference-maker Evgeni Malkin of the Penguins wouldn’t even have been in the lineup for Game 3 in the first place.
MALKIN AND MAX
To say Malkin has been better during this spring’s final compared to last year would be an enormous understatement. But Malkin’s linemate Talbot has also been quite good for the Penguins with some very timely goals and inspired play.
In fact, Malkin likes almost everything about his new linemate.
“It’s never stop in skate,” Malkin said about Talbot. “Yeah, little bit bad hands. He has lots of scoring chance, not score. It’s OK, he learns over the summer.”
Strangely, Malkin was far less eloquent when discussing for the first time his fight with Henrik Zetterberg in the last minute of Game 2.
“I’m thinking not fight because the ref not need fight. Yeah, it’s been emotional. Lots of emotions, me and Zetterberg. And I see how punching Zetterberg and Max and I try to help because it’s two guys beat Max. And after I fight it feels ref not need fight.”
PANTHER GM IN WAITING?
Keep the name Kevin Gilmore in mind because there’s a good chance he’ll be the next GM of the Florida Panthers. Formerly the assistant GM of the Los Angeles Kings, Gilmore is highly regarded in NHL circles and is very close to Tony Tavares, the president-CEO of Sports Properties Acquisition Corp., which is reportedly in the midst of negotiations to buy the Panthers, the BankAtlantic Center and surrounding properties for a total of $240 million.
Gilmore was the Kings assistant GM prior to being let go by the organization shortly after Dean Lombardi became the GM three years ago. There are also rumors circulating that Ottawa Senators president Roy Mlakar could leave the organization to become president of the Panthers.
NO FAN OF CALL
Not surprisingly, Ericsson wasn’t impressed with the call in Game 3 that led to the Penguins game-winning goal by Sergei Gonchar.
“I thought it was a bad call, actually,” Ericsson said. “(Penguins left winger Matt Cooke) grabbed my stick and pulled me to him and I guess the referee fell for it.”
There has been speculation that Marian Hossa is close to signing a long-term deal with the Red Wings and may have, in fact, already agreed to terms on the deal.
Not true, said both Hossa and the Red Wings. The reality is Wings GM Ken Holland and Hossa have not spoken about a contract extension since the playoffs began and don’t intend to until after the Stanley Cup final is over.
MALTBY STAYS IN
Even if Pavel Datsyuk returns, there’s a good chance Kris Draper will also return to the lineup for Game 4 to help the Red Wings beleaguered power play. That would mean Justin Abdelkader and Ville Leino would likely come out, with Kirk Maltby staying in.
That’s fine with Wings goalie Chris Osgood, who thinks Maltby’s chattering has a real effect on the game.
“When I’m not playing I watch him when I’m on the bench because he’s hilarious,” Osgood said. “He wants to play, coach and ref the game all at the same time.”
From the road in Pittsburgh, host Ken Campbell and Joe Starkey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review discuss... Detroit’s struggles on the penalty kill… Fatigue affecting level of play… And Pittsburgh’s support players stepping up.
PRODUCER: Ted Cooper | The THN.com Shootout will appear regularly during the Stanley Cup final.
THN is on the road following the Stanley Cup final and will file daily reports until a champion is crowned. To read other entries, click HERE. Also, check out THN.com's regular video roundtable, the THN.com Shootout for updates from both Detroit and Pittsburgh.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesday and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.
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