"I'd never thought I'd say this to my hockey team. We've got to start diving because it's working. It is working. They're getting power plays because of the diving. I can go through the list of players. You already know who they are. You've seen them. It's ridiculous." — Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray on the Nashville Predators diving, April 18
"That's gamesmanship, and I understand that. It's also a little bit putting the referee in a tough spot. We have the best referees. If you're going to make them look bad, I don't think that's needed in the game." — Nashville Predators Coach Barry Trotz on the Vancouver Canucks diving, May 4.
Such is the way of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, when the alleged embellishers become those victimized by alleged embellishment.
The focus of Thursday night's Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals between the Vancouver Canucks and the Nashville Predators should be on what extending this series would mean to the Preds' franchise, as well as on the goalie duel between Roberto Luongo and Pekka Rinne.
Instead, the focus is on the officiating; and, specifically, if the Predators' words after Game 3 will have hurt or harmed their cause.
There were two plays in Game 3 that drew the ire of Trotz and Predators fans.
The first was a Jarred Smithson phantom high stick (gif here) that Luongo made look like he had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage during the play. That led to a second-period power-play goal for Vancouver.
In overtime, more significantly, this happened:
That Ryan Kesler stick-hold-turned-hooking call on Shea Weber resulted in a game-winning tally in overtime, and led to this quote from David Legwand (via the Kurtenblog):
"It's a horrible call. Obviously they're going to think it's a good call, but Kesler's obviously holding his stick. I don't know if [referee] Timmy Peel had a date or something, but he wanted to get out of here pretty quick, it looked like. It's a tough way to lose a game."
Wow, don't hold back, Leggy. Tell us how you really feel.
So will any of them affect the officiating in Game 4? The Globe & Mail is wondering the same thing:
Prior to Game 7 of their first-round series against the Chicago Blackhawks, Canucks general manager Mike Gillis went on a prepared rant regarding the officiating. His team won the deciding contest, although some calls went against the Canucks.
"I don't think so," Trotz said when asked if working the officials helps get the next call. "My point was: let's be up front...let's play it fair up and straight up, and if so, the best team wins."
Maybe Trotz's sneaky "Hey, give the refs a break" speech and Legwand's rant on Tim Peel are a wash. Or, maybe, the Predators' angst after Game 3 will mean a power-play advantage in Game 4.