As little as I have been paying attention to hockey since all my usual interests have left the scene, it has been very hard to avoid the flare-ups.
As it looks now, for instance, it will be a very balanced version of NHL officiating in a now quite possible San Jose Sharks/Boston Bruins cup final series.
Many, including me, have long thought the Bruins have benefited from, at least, “friendly,” officiating bounces during the playoff season. I still believe biased and/or negligent officiating cost the Vancouver Canucks their best opportunity to host Lord Stanley’s goblet, and almost everybody, including a lot of Boston fans of my acquaintance, concedes that, for whatever reason (Colin Campbell, anyone) the Bruins get more leeway from officials than any other playoff participants.
That favoured franchise treatment used to be reserved for the Ballard Leafs, put they are seldom in position these days to take advantage of referee kindness, so the Original Six squad in the catbird seat has been the Bruins for quite a while.
This year, though, the Sharks have seen the scales tipped their way, twice. An overcall, perhaps, against the Las Vegas Knights allowed the Knights to self-combust and let the Sharks get through a very tough patch. Now, against the Blues, a non-call (unless there is a few that some St. Louis back checker deliberately touched the obvious hand pass, which nobody has claimed to have seen, the miss on Wednesday night that gifted the Sharks an overtime winner was egregious) has improved the chances of San Jose of moving on.
The situation brings up a question – Are the Sharks now a co-favourite with the Bruins in terms of officiating leniency/hopes? We will soon see.
If the Sharks and Bruins do meet in the final series. I will have a rooting interest in the west coast club – underdog rankling from official bias being offset by favouritism towards both sides – with a local angle involved.
Shark netminder Martin Jones has a strong Home of Champions connection, and likely his name is a commemoration of a two-time monument enshrinee, Seth (you guessed it) Martin. Jones’ dad, Harvey, is a J.L. Crowe grad of the mid-60s and was a goalie for some interation of the Smoke Eaters during his upbringing here.
Harvey’s career path was onwards and upwards from here, into the very top echelons of the Vancouver Canucks’ management elite, and his son took advantage of his hockey opportunities to end up as a starter in a strong NHL organization.
The goalies involved if that series happen to have crossed paths, and this year endured similar struggles, to get, with their teams, where they are.
Jones was pulled in two of the first three playoff games in the opening round, but has been stellar since.
Tuuka Rask, according to may aforementioned Bruins faithful friends, should not have been the go-to guy at all for Boston. They are grudgingly warming to Rask as an NHL caliber netminder – not surprising given how often Rask has been the difference towards success for Boston – although they all still act surprised by his performances, every time.
A further twist was that Jones was, fleetingly, the strongest rival to Rask for the Bruins job. Jones was traded to Boston from Los Angeles after a very strong rookie performance in support of near-icon Mike Quick of the Kings. Upsetting local Bruins supporters, though, Jones was quickly moved to San Jose in a further trade – likely one pre-arranged between Boston and San Jose to circumvent the Kings’ distaste for giving a division rival access to an extremely promising netminding talent.
So, despite the lack of sentimental picks, there might yet be some rooting interest for me in the final round. There will certainly be lots of side stories, bottom stories, involved to draw my attention.