By JUSTIN DEMARCO
When Penguins captain Sidney Crosby gained position on Islanders defenseman Brian Strait and drove to the net in overtime of Game 3, I knew a penalty was going to be called when Crosby went down and I was fine it.
The crowd clearly disagreed since it was a call against the home team at a pivotal moment, but it was the right call at the time. After reading Jeff Capellini’s excellent column on this play for WFAN.COM, I agree with the majority of his points, except, I believe, the call had to be made.
Strait did everything in his power to keep the puck out of the net and defend against No. 87. That included Strait placing both of his hands on the star’s left shoulder as Crosby crashed the net. As the play developed, the referee, Tim Peel, saw Strait’s hands on Crosby’s jersey, Crosby going to the ice and Strait throwing his hands up as if to say “It wasn’t me.” Usually, when that happens, a player at least knows he may have done something wrong, hence the “I swear I didn’t do it” reaction.
So, Peel called the penalty. Since Strait barely contested it I believed that he thought he held Crosby, too. Watching the replay from the angle at the 1:21 mark of this video you can see Crosby goes down pretty easily, but that wasn’t what Peel saw originally.
Before you go crazy and want to protest the series, keep in mind that the referee, Peel, who made the call was standing to the side of the net as the play developed and had a judgment call to make. I’m sure Peel wasn’t thinking “this guy is a diver,” but rather “If he went down there must have been a reason,” especially since Crosby’s strength is well-known throughout the league.
ESPN commentator — and noted New York Rangers fan — Linda Cohn questioned the call immediately:
Even Lebron doesn’t get calls Crosby gets. #nhlplayoffs
— Linda Cohn (@lindacohn) May 5, 2013
We can question a lot of things about that play. If someone took down Islanders star John Tavares like that would the call have been made? As Capellini pointed out in his column — and as any Isles fan knows from watching games — players take liberties with Tavares all the time with few calls actually made.
You can ask, what if a well- respected, veteran player — for argument’s sake, let’s say, Chris Pronger — took down Crosby like that in overtime, would the penalty have been called? Probably not, especially when you consider everything Pronger was able to get away with during his playing days, even against Crosby.
But those hypotheticals aren’t going to do anyone any good. We all know how the game ended a few seconds later when Crosby found Chris Kunitz in front for the game winning goal.
At the end of the day, Crosby put himself in a position to be successful and made the most of it. Great players find a way. They always do. If Crosby didn’t do that awesome spin-o-rama move on Strait and make his way to the net, the referee wouldn’t have had to make that call. You can say what you want about Crosby “being a baby,” or “being soft,” but one thing cannot be questioned: the guy knows how to win games, especially the biggest ones.
Now, let’s see if Crosby gets that call again. Peel’s the last one (or any official for that matter) who wants to be embarrassed and held responsible for a “bad call” that costs a team a game, especially in the playoffs.