Some Thursday thoughts on Sochi, etc.
FEB 13, 2014 9:49a ET
One of my first impressions from Sochi is that Slovenia has cranked out a winter athlete just as dynamic as Anze Kopitar of the L.A. Kings. That run by downhill skier Tina Maze to tie for the Gold was epic. Great Olympic moment.
Another (obvious one) is that Team USA has a pretty explosive offense, at least out of the gate. My question is whether the team can keep the puck out of the net when it matters later in the tournament.
And it's still compelling when the U.S. and Canadian women's hockey teams meet. That early matchup was intense, spirited, and well played. The problem is the rest of the world hasn't been able to -- or hasn't chosen to -- grow the women's game the way it's been grown in North America.What a shame, because the women's game played at that level is riveting. It would be more riveting if it were more than a two-team race for gold.
When they do finally play for Gold, here's hoping the world's top two women's teams get a more Olympic-caliber job from the officiating crew than the one they received in Canada's one-goal win Wednesday. Sure, it's never fun for an official to blow a whistle thinking a puck has been frozen only to see it trickle free. But to allow a goal after the whistle had clearly sounded just compounded the problem. It wasn't a great Olympic moment. And officials are going to have to start counting the number of players on the ice, too. The women deserve better.
One thing about the Olympic break, it's providing that proverbial calm before the storm. There will be no ramping up for teams on the edge of the playoff mix, and any of those teams that think they can ease their way back into the final stretch of the season will be gracing the links when mid-April rolls around. For two straight seasons, the Columbus Blue Jackets have come out of the gate slowly to start the season. It's not an option after this break, if they intend to earn the second playoff berth in franchise history.
Back to officiating. One thing that is still troubling to me is the non-goal call on Boone Jenner's apparent goal in San Jose last Friday. How in the name of all that is optical can a referee determine a stick is above the crossbar when a play happens that quickly? In real time, I'm sorry, it's impossible. What always should be done in that case is call the goal first and allow the people in Toronto to slow it down frame-by-frame and overrule the call if need be.
Had Jenner's deflection been called a goal to begin with, it would have stood. There was no visual evidence the stick was over the crossbar; it was absolutely that close. The problem is -- because it was originally waved off - Toronto couldn't contradict the call on the ice, because it didn't have the required absolute visual evidence. In a league still starved for goals, it's those little officiating decisions that become hugely impactful. And it doesn't have to be that way. Every time the puck goes in the net, just point to the net. Call it a goal. Then let technology reverse the decision, if the evidence dictates it.
The bottom line is an apparently perfectly good goal was nullified, probably costing the Blue Jackets at least a point in San Jose. This coming in the same league that allowed a goal to stand after a puck bounced 10-feet up the protective mesh, then off the back of L.A. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick and into the Kings net, ultimately giving the Detroit Red Wings two free points. And with every point so critical during this playoff push, both decisions could alter the post-season mix.