Reporting Colin Dunlap
Save the conspiracy theories for Area 51 and the such.
Save the nonsense, Neanderthal stuff, too.
Let’s talk hockey — and more to the point — penalties.
Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby’s greatest assist on Sunday, as the Penguins were able to snatch a 5-4 victory away from the Islanders in Game 3 of the opening round series, didn’t come when he set up Chris Kunitz with a deftly-placed feed at 8:44 of the overtime for the skate-off winner.
No, Crosby’s greatest assist in helping the Penguins take a 2-1 series advantage came more than a minute before, when he danced along the boards with the puck, pulled to a grinding halt, fox-trotted past Islanders defenseman Brian Strait as he darted for the cage and forced Strait to pull him — with both hands firmly grasping Crosby’s left arm — powerfully to the ice.
Watch the replay.
Then watch it again.
Do yourself a favor and watch it a third time. That’s what happened.
There was no diving, no embellishing, exaggerating or overdoing it — Crosby got yanked down and drew a penalty.
Fair and square.
But from the moment Crosby’s rump ricocheted off the Long Island ice, and then even louder after the Penguins won, the Islanders fans and some hockey observers have clamored about some sort of preferential treatment Crosby received.
Save it. Save the conspiracies for the spaceships.
It was enlightening for these eyes to see what doesn’t happen often enough in big situations in sports — that the officials had the fortitude to make a call when it is clearly in violation of the rules.
Certainly, hockey is one of the more delinquent offenders in all of sports, with certain penalties whistled in the regular season and/or regulation, but then the exact event happening in the playoffs and/or overtime and the officials don’t bat an eye, don’t even fathom blowing a whistle.
But think about how much the officials — referees Brad Meier and Tim Peel and linesmen Scott Cherrey and Brian Murphy in this case — had to go against what is the normal mode of operation.
The guys in the stripes, on this occasion, not only called a penalty in the playoffs. They also did it in overtime. And, to boot, made the call against the home side.
That is a ton of what we see as predisposed factors thrown right out the window with one tweet of the whistle.
And, no doubt, it was the right call.
All too often we are left as sports fans to pour everything we have into a game or season, only to have it reach one of the pinnacle moments and be left with some kind of mugging, some sort of egregious transgression against the rules where no whistle comes.
“Let the players decide it,” is the all-too-often explanation, as if the we, as the viewing public, should accept that all the rules change in an overtime. Or in the playoffs.
Or in the game’s zenith moment.
As if there is some badge of honor to a game that is officiated within the confines of the rules for 95 percent of the time and then shifted outside those confines for the final 5 percent.
That’s utter garbage.
So, too, was the opinion of noted Crosby-hater, failed NHL coach and NBC commentator Mike Milbury, who said the call was “too soft” and “didn’t think it should have been called.”
Milbury’s television tag team partner, NBC’s Jeremy Roenick, described the play as “way too soft a call for me.”
Sure guys. But if it happened in the second period, it would have been OK, right?
Noted New York Rangers fan and that supreme, preeminent and foremost voice you think when you think hockey, Linda Cohn of ESPN, chimed in on Twitter, saying, “Call it like I see it. Did so seconds after game. Soft calls shouldn’t be made in OT. Milbury and @Jeremy_Roenick said same thing.”
Uh, thanks. Or something.
Undeniably, Sidney Crosby should be applauded for his efforts in drawing what could be a series-changing penalty.
But, maybe even more loudly, the officials in Game 3 should be applauded for officiating the play — at that crucial juncture — the way it is supposed to be called.
Former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Sports Writer Colin Dunlap is the featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 10 p.m. -2 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at email@example.com.