Back when I used to watch a lot less hockey than I do now, I used to love the way the NHL was officiated, particularly during the playoffs.
Totally true or not, the NHL's refs had a reputation for swallowing their whistles in big games, especially late in games and especially in the final minutes of close contests. I loved that. Let the players decide the games, unless something egregious happens that directly impacts the outcome.
Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw's collision with Phoenix goalie Mike Smith in Game 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinals only had a direct impact on the game in one way — it hurt the Blackhawks. Shaw did not play from that point on, and while Smith looked like he was seriously hurt when it happened, looks can be deceiving, especially when the party involved wants them to be. Smith played the entire game.
Whether it's fair or not, the NHL weighs injury severity when doling out punishment for illegal plays. That's how Duncan Keith gets five games for this, Carl Hagelin gets three playoff games for this and Shea Weber gets ZERO games for this. Daniel Sedin and Daniel Alfredsson were hurt on the hits by Keith and Hagelin; Henrik Zetterberg wasn't despite having his head slammed into the glass by Wber.
And perhaps that's why Smith laid on the ice long enough for Shaw to be given a game misconduct Saturday night, and why he was reported as being a game-time decision for tonight's Game 3. If you make the NHL and specifically its disciplinary buffoon, Brendan Shanahan, think you're hurt, the chances are obviously higher that your opponent will face a suspension. Even if, as was the case with Shaw, it sure seemed the player in question was trying to avoid contact, and even if, as I'm betting will be the case with Smith, the other player in question doesn't miss a single second of game action due to his "injuries."
Whatever. The Hawks will have to play tonight and Thursday at home and Saturday at Phoenix without a rookie third-liner who hasn't registered a point yet in the series. It's not fair, and it slighly decreases their chances of winning this series, but it is what it is.
As long as the Blackhawks don't dwell on it, and focus instead on other issues — like their play in their defensive end, and like getting Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane going — I think they're still the favorites. My biggest fear going into the series — that Smith would dominate and Corey Crawford would stink — hasn't come to fruition. Crawford has been the better goalie — maybe not statistically, but in terms of not letting bad goals (like Jonathan Toews' backhander in Game 1) by him. It's not that Smith has been terrible overall, but he's been proven human, and that, hopefully, will be enough for what I think is a far suprior group of skaters for Chicago.