Chillin’ with AC – JUNE 3
By Andrew Cioffi

HEY, HEY, HEY, GOODBYE

As we move into the second round of the 2021 NHL Playoffs, there has been a lot of criticism on how the referees have been calling games. It has always been evident that that the referees go by a “let’s the boys play” policy come playoff time. That means that they let a lot of stuff go, that would normally be called a penalty in the regular season. The players clearly notice this and, as a result, the tough guys know that they can get away with a lot more. This makes me wonder if this is questioning the integrity of the game.  Is this a good thing for the league or a bad thing for the league.  I believe that the lack of penalties makes a huge difference for the game and would argue that it’s a bad thing for the league. It completely changes the play from a game of skill to a game of who has a bigger and more physical team. The best players in the league have seemed to struggle in the playoffs and I believe it is due to the level of physicality allowed in the playoffs are and the lack of space on the ice.

6 out of the top 10 point leaders from the regular season, including the top 2 scorers, have been eliminated in the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Connor McDavid lead the league in points this season with 105 points, 21 more than his teammate, Leon Draisaitl, who had 84 points this season. These two players along with the Edmonton Oilers, seemed to be unstoppable, and were a favorite to win the Stanley Cup this year. Well, the Oilers were swept by the Winnipeg Jets in four games in the first round of the playoffs. This was absolutely shocking as the Oilers beat the Jets in every game of the regular season this year.  Hey, Lightning fans, remind you of Columbus a couple years ago?

To add to this, the league leaders in points, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, scored a combined 3 goals in the series. Some would credit the defensive play of the Jets, but in the regular season these two players scored in every game against Winnipeg. So why were they not able to score in the playoffs? I believe that the Jets knew they could get away with a lot more and therefore did anything they could to shut these two players down. The Jets hit McDavid and Draisaitl every chance they could and in the regular season a lot of these hits would be called penalties. I believe the referees are the main reason why the Jets won this series and that should not be the case.

Although the Oilers are the strongest example of this issue, we saw the same thing happen with the Toronto Maple Leafs in their series against the Montreal Canadians. The Maple Leafs have two top 10 point leaders from the regular season with Mitchell Marner and Auston Matthews. Marner was fourth in scoring this year and was held to 0 goals in the playoffs. Matthews was ranked 5th in scoring this year and he scored 1 goal in the playoffs. The Montreal Canadians did not have one player in the top 50 for points scored this season. How is it that a team that struggled to score all season beats a team that was one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup this year? The answer is the Montreal Canadians have a bigger and tougher team. The Canadians only had 73 penalty minutes this series, but if you watched any of the games you would say there should’ve been a lot more calls.

Finally, we saw the same exact trend with Sydney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Syd was the 8th ranked points leader this season and he was shut down to 2 points this playoffs. My question is how are these top players are not scoring points in the playoffs, when they are the league leaders during the regular season?

With the league looking to get away from the unnecessary physical side of the game, I was really caught off guard that they would be calling less penalties, especially in the playoffs. It is truly unfortunate because, as a hockey fan, you won’t be seeing the best players on the ice for the remainder of the playoffs. I believe that the officiating should be exactly the same as the regular season or it completely kills the game. I know that many coaches, owners and teams are complaining about this issue and I hope to see a change for the rest of the playoffs.

That is my take in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs and as always, Be Cool.