The Goal That Wasn’t
A hot topic at Chicago-area Super Bowl parties yesterday evening was Dave Bolland’s disallowed goal in the first period of the 4-2 Blackhawk victory in San Jose.
“I couldn’t freakin’ believe it,” said Steve Saetnuf of Prospect Heights. “Shhh, here come the commercials. We always watch the commercials.”
While it appears the correct call was made – albeit on the wrong player – the rule allowing linesmen to make a penalty call following a whistle when it involves a double minor high stick is far from perfect. Though a ‘Hawk stick obviously clipped the face of Jonathon Cheechoo, the linesman, who apparently felt comfortable enough to make a post-whistle penalty call, obviously did not view the play as clearly as he should have. This isn’t surprising given the linesman’s role in officiating the game doesn’t normally involve calling penalties. The high stick penalty is a unique one; flailing sticks are everywhere, and an official calling a high sticking penalty must be sure the clipped player was actually struck by the stick of an opponent, rather than one of his teammates’ or even his own. Saturday’s linesman was not able to do so, as evinced by his penalizing of Kris Versteeg, a nonguilty party who was in the area.
The bottom line is this: though it was called appropriately on Saturday, save the penalized player, the rule should be tweaked, if not changed. Although allowing a linesman to call penalties is naturally imperfect, if it must be done, empower the linesman to make the call during play, rather than after a whistle. Following the current rule, the fans attending Saturday’s tilt should receive a refund; they only witnessed some 57 minutes of NHL hockey when they paid for at least 60. The game play in between the high stick and Dave Bolland’s goal was wiped clean from the stat sheet, but not re-played, causing those few minutes of play to vanish. Never happened.
Back in December, the Fifth Feather handed out NHL trophies to those players deserving at that point – as compared to predictions for season-end winners. At that point, Kris Versteeg led all rookie scorers, as he continues to do at this point. As such, I picked him as the late-December Calder Trophy winner. Since, however, Columbus Blue Jackets netminder Steve Mason, known before this season for backstopping Team Canada to a World Junior Championship last winter, has not only solidified himself as the likely Calder Trophy winner, but catapulted himself into the running for the Vezina Trophy. While Versteeg has continued to play well, Mason has been his team’s best player, and with a defensive corps led by overpaid Mike Commodore, Mason has managed a .925 save percentage and a league leading 2.06 goals against average. Most impressive, though, is his 19-11-2 record for a team that’s 5-10-3 without him in net.
Alexander Ovechkin will absolutely run away with the Hart; Dan Boyle has likely joined the Norris Trophy conversation with Shea Weber, Nicklas Lidstrom, Zdeno Chara and Duncan Keith; and Peter DeBoer of the Florida Panthers will be tough to beat for the Jack Adams. If the playoffs were to start today, Florida would be the first team to miss out in the East, but they currently have games in hand on all top eight teams but Philadelphia.
Though the ‘Hawks continue to lack a true #2 center – or maybe it’s a true #1 at this point in Jonathon Toews’ development – Kris Versteeg, for the time being, appears to have taken the reigns on the “second line” – yes, it’s in quotes – as the center. Versteeg played center as his primary position as recently as juniors, and has seen limited time at the position in both the AHL and NHL. His skill set screams “center,” and given the opportunity, I think he’ll be just fine. He may even develop into a true center.
No, Versteeg’s not Mats Sundin, but allowing Patrick Sharp to play winger with Jonathon Toews may just be worth it.
The ‘Hawk road trip continues in Edmonton tomorrow evening and hits the two other western Canadian stops before the week is over. Heretofore, the ‘Hawks are 7-0-0 against the Oilers, Flames and Canucks. The trip continues to cellar dwelling Atlanta and St. Louis, and the ‘Hawks return home on Valentine’s Day to play the resurgent Dallas Stars. The ‘Hawks are 1-1-2 against the Blues, with their lone win coming in overtime on a Martin Havlat wraparound goal.