It was a bad couple of minutes for the Phoenix Coyotes deep into the desert night on Tuesday. Just moments before Dustin Penner ended their season with a shot that beat Mike Smith over the right shoulder, the Coyotes lost a key piece when Michael Rozsival was taken out by a hit from Kings captain Dustin Brown.
At live speed, it certainly looked like a knee-on-knee hit, and the Coyotes were furious when Rozsival struggled to get to the bench and Brown wasn't placed in the penalty box. But did the officials make the correct call?
It's a really tough call to make. Yes, at full speed, the hit looks horrible. Hell, it is horrible. But Brown didn't stick his leg out in a deliberate attempt to injure Rozsival. It was thigh-on-thigh, not knee-on-knee, and I'd have to chalk this one up to the speed of the game simply causing a really, really dangerous hit.
Mike Smith didn't see things that way, though. Many members of the Coyotes were visibly upset with the officials throughout overtime -- from a missed delay of game call against Slava Voynov early in the period to this hit to failing to blow the whistle when Smith lost his glove during the OT period (they're not obligated to do so, by the way) -- but Smith was off the handle in his postgame talk with reporters.
It's disappointing that we not only got beat by [the Kings] but that we got beat by the officials too. It's not just that call. It's all game long. They called us for three offsides in the first period and none of them were offsides. The guy flipped it over the glass there. How do all four refs not see that? It's not just this game. It's all season long. They did everything they could not to get us to this position.
Not taking anything away from the Kings. They deserved to be here, they played hard and they were a tough opponent, but we battled as hard as we do to get to this point, and it seems like everyone was against us. We battled through adversity with a lot of things that went on but the officiating. If you're going to be reffing in the playoffs, it's tough some of the calls that were made tonight.
Shane Doan may have been even more animated.
As a player, I get in trouble when I make a mistake. Big trouble. I get called out by [the media], I get called out by everybody. I get called out by my coaches, I'm accountable to my teammates. ... I don't know how you miss it. I really don't know. I don't understand it. I'm sure they have a great explanation for it. I'm sure they will have a great explanation for it.
I know they do their best. I know they always try to do their best and that they're going to make mistakes. It's just tough when you're on the short end of it so many times. You watch the last three games and try to tell me where I got my penalties -- my slashing penalty or my roughing penalty of my holding penalty. The last three penalties I got. You tell me where I got them.
It is what it is. They beat us.
Coach Dave Tippett was a little less animated, but he did tell reporters in thinly veiled language that they probably saw a bit of what the Coyotes are talking about here.
"I think you guys should just write what you saw, " Tippett said. "If you write what you saw, you'll see why people get frustrated. You know, the players, I mean, there's a lot of blood, sweat and tears that go into this. There's a lot of emotion in the game.
"It is what it is. L.A. played well. Early in the series they played very well. Ultimately, the last two games, I thought were our best games, but they were too late. L.A. beat us. That's what should be remembered, not the refereeing."
The Kings absolutely did beat the Coyotes. Maybe some calls went against Phoenix over the course of the series -- it's all pretty subjective when you start breaking down individual penalty calls -- but for starters, Phoenix's penalty kill was fantastic in the series. In terms of goals against, penalties did not cost them the Western Conference title.
They simply got going far too late in the Western Final. The Kings mostly dominated them for three straight games with the territorial advantage, the skating edge and a balanced scoring attack that Phoenix couldn't match, despite the heroism of the now seemingly childish goalie Smith.
This series had nothing to do with the officials. If anything at all, they were a subplot only made compelling by the comments of these Coyotes immediately following the end of their season.