First off, let me just start by saying that Brian Gionta is one of the sneakiest players in the league. He gets away with plenty in front of the net. While the Devil sniper is a very good player, he's a notorious hacker who takes full advantage of the rules which basically put defensemen at attacking forwards' mercy. Want a comparison? See former Devil Pat Verbeek who went onto a great career.
Officials have begun to pick up on the gritty Rochester native's agitating style by calling him for more of those slashes. Maybe just once he'll finally get nailed for goalie interference. He's always in front of the net on that edge pushing the envelope.
It's my stance that he wasn't pushed in by anyone last night. He skated directly in the crease and nudged Marc-Andre Fleury and then Ryan Whitney went after him like any good defenseman would. The same way Colin White would've if the same thing had happened to Martin Brodeur. Think the Devils miss him? Their defense is as soft as tissue paper without White around. His absence due to an eye injury is a big reason why teams are scoring at will and not paying any price. They've made up for it the past couple of games by scoring 11 goals against poor defensive teams.
Now, let's go back to the play in question which was ruled a goal. How is a goalie supposed to stop the puck nevermind see it when he's down on the ice with Gionta on top of him there? He has no chance of making a save in that position which I believe is in the rulebook. That's why it never should've counted.
What's even more appalling was new WFAN Devils' color analyst Sherry Ross' take on it between intermission. Opting just to discuss how the puck was loose which was true while neglecting to mention Gionta's role in crucial play. Why else did she think an animate Fleury shoved the net at the official for? Hint: It had nothing to do with the puck being loose. If you want to be an objective analyst, do us a favor and discuss every detail next time.
To rule that a goal seems illogical. There's absolutely no way either LaRue or Morton could've seen the puck. In that case, it should've been whistled dead immediately. From my vantage point watching this controversial play, I couldn't tell where it was.
How are those two refs going to see the puck in that pile with all those battles taking place in the crease? The view had to be obscured which is why the decision didn't make much sense.
My main feeling on this game is that the Pens got screwed out of a point. If they were smart, they'd send a copy to the league and put it up for immediate review. You have to wonder what the guys up north were thinking watching that second period. Do you think it was discussed?
I'd love to find out.
What's written here is coming from as passionate a puck fan out there. This isn't about an archrival benefiting from questionable decisions. It's about the integrity of the game. This could've happened to any team. I was witness to one of the worst called playoff games last Spring yet the Rangers overcame it to prevail. However, there's no way the game would've needed three OT's to decide without some very poor judgments by the two referees.
As a fan of the sport, I believe I speak for many when I say that when I attend or watch a game on TV, I don't want to notice the stripes. That task is becoming more and more difficult lately. Part of it is the strict enforcement of the rules where they're calling every phantom hook. Another aspect of it is that some of the refs up here clearly aren't capable of making proper calls. You'd think the league would start to take notice how the standard has dropped the past few years since going to the two ref system.
They haven't done enough. What becomes clearer is that there aren't enough good officials for all these games. It's like running a competitive HS Basketball League with D officials who have never been on big games before. There's bound to be some loss of control and controversies which doesn't bode well for the players or coaches. It impacts everybody.
I want to see what the league does after this latest incident. I'd like to believe they'll take a hard close look and put LaRue and his lost partner on notice.
It's high time!