x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

NHL: Referees not turning blind eye to play-off penalties

One could argue that if NHL players are more intense in the play-offs, and presumably more physical, they are more likely to violate rules, writes Gregg Patton.

In Game 3 of Pittsburgh-Boston series, Jaromir Jagr began the game-winning play for the Bruins in overtime by, allegedly, getting away with a hook. Bruce Bennett / Getty Images
In Game 3 of Pittsburgh-Boston series, Jaromir Jagr began the game-winning play for the Bruins in overtime by, allegedly, getting away with a hook. Bruce Bennett / Getty Images

One of the perceived differences between NHL regular season and play-off hockey is that referees let a lot of penalties slide.

Just thinking it, however, does not necessarily make this "truism" true.

In fact, the last four teams in the post-season have been penalised slightly more in the post-season (a cumulative average of 10.9 minutes per game) than in the regular season (10.7).

One could argue that if players are more intense in the play-offs, and presumably more physical, they are more likely to violate rules.

So the "truism" must be correct – there are more penalties and the officials ignore them.

Not necessarily. One also could argue that players are hyper-aware in the post-season (thanks to red-faced coaches) that penalties can be crippling, so they vigilantly avoid tripping, high-sticking, et al.

The raw numbers through Friday were that Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings had been whistled for, roughly, one less penalty per game in the play-offs, Chicago Black Hawks one more and Pittsburgh Penguins 1.5 more.

The subject drew attention, again, in Pittsburgh-Boston series Game 3, when Jaromir Jagr began the game-winning play for the Bruins in overtime by, allegedly, getting away with a hook.

Perhaps he did.

But to think this wouldn't have happened in the regular season is nonsense.

Or supposition, at best. The numbers, for starters, don't support it.

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