Monday February 16th, 2015

Off The Draw

Barry Trotz hates divers. Just ask him.

“The referees have a tough enough job,” he said after an act of embellishment by the Panthers’ Vince Trocheck put the Capitals down two men back on Jan. 4. “[Diving is] something we should start addressing a little more in the league because it’s becoming a problem.”

It wasn’t the first time this season that Trotz had held forth on the issue. After Washington beat the Maple Leafs 6–2 on Jan. 7, he said, “Lately, we’ve ran into a couple teams that are pushing the integrity of the game a little bit, where they’re suckering the referees ... Our referees are the best in the world. There’s a lot more of that happening. I’m hoping the league clamps down a little bit more on that, because I think it’s creeping into the game right now, because everyone’s in a dogfight to make the playoffs.”

And how about this comment, which Trotz made after the Caps’ 5–4 shootout win over the Oilers on Jan. 20: “I thought there were some loose penalties ... I talk about the integrity of the game. One of the penalties, really the guy just sort of slid down and went into the boards to draw the penalty. It wasn’t [a penalty]. I looked at that. That’s just the integrity of the game. The officials have a hard enough job.”

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Those are noble sentiments that we can all get behind. But does Washington’s coach adhere to such high standards when his own superstar is the one doing the flopping? It sure looked like Alex Ovechkin went down easy a couple of times on Sunday night in the Capitals’ 5–3 win over the Ducks.

Ovechkin, who otherwise had a brilliant four-point performance, drew the ire of Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf after one fairly blatant drop-and-roll (per Helene Elliott):

“I didn’t know he was going to dive tonight the way he did all over the [expletive] ice. That part of it’s a little [more] embarrassing, pardon my language. He’s a great player. He’s going to score goals and make plays. That other stuff’s embarrassing.

"The slash on me. The slash on his hand. When we ran into him and he dove down. All those things. It’s embarrassing to the game.”

To his credit, Ovechkin read the play perfectly. He initiated contact on Getzlaf in the corner with a hit that verged on boarding, and which goaded his opponent into retaliating—exactly what officials are most likely to call. Getzlaf fell into the trap, responding with a little whack on the back of Ovechkin’s legs.

Not a pleasant shot, but not the sort of contact that should fell a 6' 3", 230-pound behemoth, either. Yet Ovechkin dropped like he’d been shot and got the call he was looking for, putting his team on the power play.

So yeah, it sure looked like a dive. Maybe even one that will earn him one of the NHL’s probationary warnings.

Of course those are double-secret, so we won't hear about it until, or if, Ovechkin commits another offense. But it’s not really the league’s reaction that will be telling here. It will be Trotz’s.

What to watch tonight

Canadiens at Red Wings (7:30 p.m. EST; RDS, SNE, FS-D)

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Mike Babcock will be more concerned about process tonight as he tries to get his team back on track defensively after it allowed a total of eight goals in two consecutive losses over the weekend. Nevertheless, it’s impossible to ignore the big picture implications of tonight’s end result for Detroit. Win and the Wings cut Montreal’s lead in the Atlantic Division to two points. Lose and they drop back by six with only one game against the Habs remaining this season.

Jimmy Howard, who wasn’t particularly sharp while allowing four goals against the Jets on Saturday, is expected to start for Detroit. The Red Wings may also feature some new line combinations as Babcock tries to find some offense; Detroit scored just one goal in each of its two previous losses to the Canadiens this season.

Montreal will be without top-four defenseman Sergei Gonchar (upper body injury), which could mean another heavy night for P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov. Subban played 35:21 in a 2–1 shootout win over the Maple Leafs on Saturday, including one epic four-minute shift during which he did everything but sell hot dogs.

Carey Price, who has allowed just a single goal in each of his last three starts, should be between the pipes for the Habs.

Rest of the schedule: Rangers at Islanders (7:00 p.m. EST; NHLN-US, TVA, SNO, SNP, MSG, MSG+; 120 Sports preview); Hurricanes at Senators (7:30 p.m. EST; FS-CR, RDS2, TSN5); Oilers at Jets (8 p.m. EST; SNOL, TSN3); Coyotes at Avalanche (9 p.m. EST; FS-A, ALT); Bruins at Flames (9 p.m. EST; NESN, SNW); Wild at Canucks (10 p.m. EST; FS-N, FS-WI, SNP); Lightning at Kings (10:30 p.m. EST; SUN, FS-W)

What you missed

• Former NHL defenseman Steve Montador, 35, was found dead in is home in Mississauga, Ontario, on Sunday. He’d been battling post-concussion symptoms, including depression. Authorities have said that he died of natural causes, pending further investigation.

• The Stars’ playoff hopes took a huge hit with the loss of Tyler Seguin, their top scorer, for three to six weeks.

• Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo had a save of the year candidate in Florida’s game against the Blues on Sunday.

• A tough season for Toronto’s David Clarkson got uglier with his two fights and ejection for a brutal hit on Montreal’s Sergei Gonchar on Saturday.

The numbers game

• The Lightning’s victory over the Sharks on Sunday was Tampa Bay’s first win in San Jose since March 24, 2003.

• Struggling Thomas Vanek of the Wild broke out with a two-goal game on Saturday, the 49th of his career. Only Alex Ovechkin (95), Jarome Iginla (66), Sidney Crosby (61) and Rick Nash (54) have had more multigoal games since Vanek made his NHL debut in October 2005.

• Rangers coach Alain Vigneault has tied the legendary Toe Blake for 20th on the NHL’s all-time career victories list, with 500.

Hot links

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• Here’s a terrific piece by Mike Harrington on the kind of man we lost in Steve Montador. Such a tragic story. Our thoughts are with his family.

• The Predators fortified themselves for a deep playoff run with a trade for defenseman Cody Franson and center Mike Santorelli.

• Montador was a plaintiff in one of the concussion lawsuits that have been filed against the NHL. It’s possible that his estate may continue to pursue damages.

• Hockey Manitoba went all out (doors, that is) to celebrate 100 years of the game in the province.

• Winger Jacob de la Rose, the Canadiens’ 2013 second-round pick, isn’t supposed to be playing for Montreal yet, but his presence means that GM Marc Bergevin might be quiet leading into the trade deadline.

• Logan Couture assessed the dire situation in San Jose after the Sharks lost their fifth consecutive home game.

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