I’ve been a fan of sports my entire life, and I know one thing to be absolutely, immutably true for virtually any game or event: when their guy does something illegal and gets away with it, it’s deplorable and possibly criminal and the referee should have his eyes examined, but when our guy does the exact same thing it’s veteran gamesmanship and gosh isn’t he a lovable rogue.
It hasn’t taken very long in Edmonton for Benoit Pouliot to live up to his reputation as a guy who takes silly penalties in the offensive zone. Some of it’s because he’s aggressive to a fault, always pushing for puck possession and that means he’s going to get whistled occasionally. Some of the rest of it is because he does things that should obviously be penalized.
When he takes a penalty, he doesn’t win himself any friends, and if he’d taken a penalty here it would not have been a good moment for the Oilers. And make no mistake: he definitely deserved a penalty.
Players aren’t generally allowed to break their stick over the hands of an opponent. It’s especially bad when that play directly leads to the go-ahead goal in a tie game. No wonder Carolina assistant coach Rod Brind’Amour lost his head so badly that the ‘Canes took an unsportsmanlike penalty.
This clip shows some great work from Perron and some dogged determination from Leon Draisaitl (who was excellent), but it doesn’t explain how Draisaitl came to be standing all alone in front of the net. Carolina’s not a great team, but presumably their defensive zone coverage is a little better than that normally.
What happened? David Perron happened. The top of that clip shows a stick caught in Perron’s gear, but what wasn’t shown on camera was how that stick managed to get lodged there.
On the Carolina feed, analyst Tripp Tracy correctly identified the problem as going back to that stick, which belonged to Hurricanes defenceman Tim Gleason. Gleason lost it, went to recover, and no forward took his spot in front of the net. But when he went back to review the play, he found something else: Perron grabbing the stick out of Gleason’s hands:
Gleason wanders away to go get his stick back (the puck was headed up ice at the time) and nobody covers for him. That leaves Draisaitl all alone in front to score what turned out to be the game-winner.
Chance and Gamesmanship
When we talk about hockey being a game heavily influenced by chance, we’re talking about things like that Pouliot play. Most of the time, that’s a two minute minor for the Oilers and a chance for Carolina to take the lead; on Friday it was a pivotal goal.
When we talk about gamesmanship, we’re talking about things like that move from Perron which handily demonstrates why he’s never going to win the Lady Byng. If that were Alex Burrows and Mark Fayne instead of Perron and Gleason, Oilers fans would scream murder, but because it’s Perron and Gleason I imagine we’ll see some chuckling and admiration in the comments section.
But it’s something to keep in mind the next time the Oilers are on the wrong side of a situation like this. Referees miss things; sometimes it works out in the favour of the home crowd and sometimes it doesn’t.
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