GLENDALE, AZ - MAY 22: Goaltender Mike Smith #41 of the Phoenix Coyotes holds up a stick as shattered as his composure while taking on the Los Angeles Kings in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Jobing.com Arena on May 22, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
If there's one topic that's received lopsided media coverage in this series, it's the refereeing.
If you buy what their players think, Phoenix has been victimized over and over by poor officiating. Meanwhile, the Kings got away with murder. The league -- which owns them, by the way -- was, for some mysterious reason, out to get them. Poor Coyotes.
Sorry, I don't see it that way.
Don't get me wrong -- the refereeing was indeed shoddy at times. The real story, in my view, is that there were plenty of bad calls and missed calls on both sides. Fans of both teams have laundry list of complaints. However, only the calls that went against Phoenix seem to be making the headlines.
The reason? The Coyotes complained loudly about the officials throughout the series, and the Kings didn't. Their view is getting the most attention because Phoenix is the squeaky wheel. Sutter, in his taciturn farmer way, didn't play that card. But he easily could have.
Here are just a few points to think about from the other side.
- Did the Coyotes complain when Justin Williams went off on a bogus interference call -- one so bad NBC's announcers couldn't believe it -- and they scored the crucial first goal in Game 4? Nope.
- Did it hurt the Coyotes when Drew Doughty went off for another dubious interference penalty in overtime in Game 5--the only call in OT? No. Phoenix could have easily ended the game on that power play.
- Mike Smith drew phantom interference calls throughout the series, flopping around to get the refs' attention. Dave Tippett later became conveniently sanctimonious about Brown diving.
Derek Morris blatantly stuck a knee out to hit Rob Scuderi in Game 2. Tippett refused to comment on the hit when questioned by reporters. Shanahan did not suspend Morris or even levy a fine. Now, according to Smith, Dustin Brown's hit on Rozsival deserves a "lifetime ban."
In short, I don't put stock into what the Coyotes are saying, though I can try to understand what it stems from. Emotions are naturally running high. They're disappointed and frustrated. With a little more time to cool off, they may realize the NHL isn't out to get them. I would hope an apology is forthcoming, as their postgame conspiracy theories were downright embarrassing. Heck, pushing the series to seven games would have helped the league's bottom line. Every bit of revenue counts.
The league has already determined that Brown's hit wasn't worthy of a hearing. Were there an unusual amount of missed calls in Game 5, or is this just a strong case of sour grapes? (And on that topic: why does it seem like the officiating in so many playoff games has been widely condemned by fans on both sides?)
For now, I'm fed up with the Coyotes' complaints. The Kings out-shot, out-chanced, and just plain out-played them, and that's why they were beaten. This is a controversy that shouldn't exist.