Ramblings: I’m offside? “No, you’re offside!” … Is anyone onside? (April 16)

Neil Parker

2016-04-16

Corey Crawford - USA TODAY Sports Images

 

What's offside? And a look at the quality of the NHL product with some notes on the playoffs entering the weekend …

 

What's offside?

What's a catch?

Why don't we just use robots to enforce the strike zone?

 

Jonathan Drouin looked offside Wednesday from the naked eye. I called it live as soon as his body went in front of the puck as both entered the offensive zone.

However, given the dearth of scoring, offense and excitement in the National Hockey League, there is no room to enforce millimetre differences captured by a grainy web cam that are then reviewed via a 10-inch Blackberry — or whatever the NHL is rolling with to delay the product and annoy the fans.

Yes, it would be great if every call was correct, but a subjective call on the ice is no different than the subjective call made after video review, is it?

Is a call 100 percent more definitely correct every time after video review than it is on the ice?

 

Sidebar No. 1:

Sometimes there are egregious on-ice calls made, but they're rare.

 

I don't have many ponies in this race, but as a life-time fan, the product in 2016 is a far cry from the game I loved watching when Mario Lemieux won back-to-back cups in the early 90s, to pinpoint one example.

The speed and skill in the game are better now than it was before the lockout, but that isn't saying a lot.

I don't want to invest 55 minutes watching a close game — two and a half hours of real time — to have the outcome be decided by two video replays.

Was Jori Lehtera offside?

I don't know, you don't know, the league doesn't know, Joel Quenneville doesn't know and Sideshow Bob doesn't know.

But they didn't call it on the ice, and there are four sets of eyes watching, and it is the job of one specific set of eyes at each end of the ice to determine whether a sequence of events is onside or offside.

Like a defenseman who cannot skate backwards fast enough to defend oncoming attackers, if a linesman assigned to determine whether a play is onside or offside cannot do his job, he shouldn't have the job.

Why is the video replay from the grainy web cam and a 10-inch blackberry more accurate than the in-person view of the hired linesman?

Here is a lesson I was told as a 12-year-old umpire, if line chalk is spilled in foul territory and a should-be-foul ball hits it, you cannot call it a foul ball. Right or wrong, when the chalk flies, it is a fair ball.

Right or wrong, when the linesman doesn't call offside, it is onside.

 

Sidebar No. 2:

Did Dez Bryant catch this football?

I think he did. A lot of people thought he did, but a lot of people also said he didn't because of yada, yada, yada, and it ended up being ruled an incompletion.

The National Football League is the Mecca of professional sports, but if you've ever endured the torture of watching a standalone game, you know the ticky-tacky calls and non-calls that decide a lot of close football games.

It is so bad, it is to the point where a subjective pass interference penalty is often the difference between winning and losing in close games. And worse for bettors, killing their spread wager.

We don't want that to become the difference on the ice.

 

In no particular order, here are my ponies:

1 – I'm lucky to help pay my bills by analyzing and writing about the NHL.

2 – I'm a passionate fan of the league, and especially the Toronto Maple Leafs.

3 – I believe fantasy hockey helps grow the game.

 

Speaking to No. 3, delays that don't definitely conclude a play don't help grow the game. In the microscope of daily fantasy hockey, someone is going to lose a contest because Vladimir Tarasenko wasn't credited with that goal, just like someone lost because Victor Hedman and Drouin weren't credited with their tallies Wednesday.

If that is a new fantasy player or a first-time viewer, it could be the difference between watching/playing again the next night. For devoted fans, it is just an annoyance. It is a reminder of the in-the-crease, not-in-the-crease fiasco of the late 90s.

In order for No. 1 of my ponies to continue, No. 3 needs to happen. And No. 2, especially if it were a critical call against my own team, is just a deterrent to my viewing enjoyment.

The NFL has its market hooked on fantasy football, against-the-spread picks and survivor pools.

The NHL is not so fortunate.

For many viewers, hockey doesn't even begin until the playoffs do. So, downgrading that experience with the subjectivity that unfolded at the end of the Chicago-St. Louis game Friday is counter productive to the appeal of the game.

Agree, disagree, it's all good. All I know, is I feel a lot better with that off my chest.

 

***

 

Detroit started the wrong goalie in Game 1 and Game 2.

Friday, the first goal was off a saucer-pass, one-time slapshot from the top of the circles that was perfectly placed, but 15-of-16 goalies in the playoffs would have stopped it. Howard just wasn't ready — or quick enough — to make the routine save.

Save the comment hates, that is a routine save. The Bolts had lengthy possession to the point that the defenseman switched sides and set up for the shot, and there wasn't any opposition traffic.

Above-average goalies make that a routine save. Good goalies catch it so his penalty killers can change. Why is Howard's glove sitting on his pad coming across the crease?

The second goal from Brian Boyle is scored from the slot on a similar saucer-pass dish, but a goaltender playing big and confidently makes that save. It wasn't a hard shot, and it was a predictable drop pass to the third-man trailer. These saves are made routinely.

The biggest thing I've noticed with Detroit, besides the goaltending, is their power-play attack is pathetic. The Red Wings had a 21.1 percent and 20.4 percent power-play mark on the road and in the second half, respectively. The lack of a shooter was evident, yet, I thought Mike Green would handle that void.

He played 2:55 minutes on the power play and only 15:14 overall. I didn't notice him with the man advantage. However, I did notice 5:48 of ineffective power-play minutes from Justin Abdelkader.

Just to hammer this home, through his first 38 appearances this season, Petr Mrazek returned a 21-10-5 record with a .933 save percentage and a 1.94 goals-against average. If he doesn't start Game 3, Detroit is officially done, if they aren't already.

 

***

 

Admittedly, I didn't see much of the Islanders-Panthers tilt, either night.

Nick Bjugstad is a star in the making as a budding power forward. Dating back to the regular season, he has six goals and eight assists through his past 17 games with 48 shots on net — Impressive numbers. More impressive, linemate Reilly Smith is up to three goals and two helpers to start the series.

Also, Dmitry Kulikov has a goal and two helpers with a plus-3 rating through the first two games of the playoffs, which has made him a sizzling play in daily contests.

John Tavares has posted eight goals and seven helpers through his past eight games. His keeper owners are sighing a breathe of relief, whereas his seasonal owners are cringing.

Thomas Greiss likely isn't good enough to win this series, and if you were patient, the Panthers were +130 to advance after losing Game 1. Those were juicy odds.

 

***

 

The Blues-Blackhawks outcome has been hammered home, but to emphasize just how dominant St. Louis was early, with 15 minutes remaining in the second period, Chicago sat with four shots on net.

Alex Pietrangelo is so smooth, and Colton Parayko's ability to find soft areas in the offensive zone highlights his incredible offensive upside.

This series will likely yield five more low-scoring games.

In case you were wondering, Duncan Keith has 76 points through 116 playoff games. Not bad for a second-round pick. Hey, maybe the Oilers can land a second rounder for Nail Yakupov.

 

***

 

It is too late to fully comment on Anaheim-Nashville. It looks really exciting, but multitasking to the capacity of quality analysis isn't in the cards when you're pushing an 18-hour work day.

My apologies.

 

***

 

It looks like Evgeni Malkin will likely play Saturday, but his exact role is a little up in the air.

Pittsburgh is going to roll the Rangers, and Malkin could be eased in with power-play time and work down the depth chart. However, at the same time, should Pittsburgh need to turn it on, look for a Patric HornqvistSidney Crosby-Malkin combo to roll out because of how strong the rest of the club has played.

 

***

 

Alec Martinez also appears unlikely to play Saturday, which is a big blow, especially for fantasy folks. After Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin and Martinez, there is nothing to like about the Kings rearguards.

Plus, the more Luke Schenn and Rob Scuderi see the ice, the worse.

I took San Jose and Detroit as underdogs, and then grabbed Florida as a dog after Game 1. Two out of three ain't bad, right?

 

***

 

Finally, I just want to part with this …

What if Drouin was handed top-six minutes to start the season?

He looks awesome, and he is creating offense, mucking it up and driving possession. And while there is an argument his play wouldn't have been to this level without the reality check, an equal argument could be tabled that an alternative approach with the budding star might have sped this process.

What do you think Dobberheads?

 

***

 

Enjoy the weekend of action. It is awesome to see the game being played properly again. Let's just hope the rinky-dinky reviews don't interfere too much going forward.

 

 

 

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