In sports, everyone is a winner-some people just win better than others. Like complaining about the officiating in the NHL and NBA finals, a tradition as old as sport itself. The peanut gallery's louder than usual today, perhaps not without reason.
Philadelphia wasn't able to become the first team to win a road game in these Stanley Cup finals, and they're in a 3-2 hole. There's a lot you can blame on their loss, in a strange game that was alternately closer and more of a blowout that the score indicated. It starts with the goaltending: Michael Leighton was pulled after giving up 3 goals on 13 shots. Brian Boucher was better — technically. He gave up 3 goals on 14 shots.
But the buzz in Philly this morning is about the zebras. The Flyers are a physical team, and that usually plays well in the finals, when the refs tend to swallow their whistles. Not this time. The teams combined for seven penalties, and in a 7-4 game with an empty netter, the Blackhawks' two PPGs were essentially the difference. One non-penalty that was, and one penalty that wasn't, are your talking points for the day.
In a 2-goal game late in the second, Chris Pronger, who's already racked up more penalty minutes in this series than in any round of the playoffs, put his stick into Patrick Kane. It was there for a millisecond, and barely impeded his progress, but Pronger was whistled for hooking. Just 27 seconds later, Dustin Byfuglien scored what would be the GWG.
More egregious was the non-call on Duncan Keith in the third, in another 2-goal game. On the faceoff, Keith caught Danny Briere in the face with his stick, drawing blood.
Yeah, I was [disappointed]," Laviolette said after the game. "It's a penalty, possibly a major."
A double-minor, actually, and a mandatory one at that. (Aside: why don't hockey players carry concealed razors like pro wrestlers, and when caught with a high stick, blade themselves to draw the extra two minutes?)
But there was no call, no power play, and the Cup itself will be in the building on Wednesday, when only the Blackhawks can claim it.
But calls going against the Flyers is nothing new. Questionable calls going against the Lakers, and specifically Kobe? Well, we're in a whole new era of Sternball.
Five fouls on Kobe, the fifth coming less than a minute into the fourth. Five fouls on Andrew Bynum, who was the Lakers' best player until his foul trouble. Ron Artest fouled out. Five fouls on Lamar Odom (which, let's be honest, didn't affect anything.)
While it'll be a little disingenuous for Lakers fans to cry about the officiating when they took 15 more free throws than the Celtics did, that's an awful lot of foul trouble for one team's impact players. On the other side, only Kevin Garnett racked up five, and Boston wasn't about to miss him if he fouled out. Rajon Rondo, the one Celtic constantly cutting to the basket, only picked up two.
After the crowd booed the refs off the court at the end, and heckled David Stern on his way out, Phil Jackson registered his own displeasure.
I wasn't happy with those foul calls," he complained afterward. "Those were unusual calls."
For his part, Kobe says he doesn't expect to be picking up five fouls in game three. For some reason, I don't think we should expect him to either.