Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Call it karma or divine intervention from
the hockey gods, but the Chicago Blackhawks had something working in their
favor by the time overtime of Game 7 rolled around in their Western Conference
semifinal Wednesday night.
In essence, a terrible decision by referee Stephen Walkom caused the
Blackhawks to win Game 7 twice. Fortunately, they were up to the task or
otherwise the NHL would have quite a messy situation on its hands.
Chicago, the West's top seed, was tied with Detroit heading into the closing
minutes of regulation when the Blackhawks struck for what should've been the
game-winner. Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson blasted a slap shot past Detroit
goaltender Jimmy Howard with 1:49 to play, but at the same time Walkom had his
eyes trained on a different part of the action and that's when potential
For some reason, Walkom called matching roughing minors on Chicago's Brandon
Saad and Detroit's Kyle Quincey, who were locked in a scrum way behind the
play in the neutral zone.
Even worse, replays showed Saad did little wrong while Quincey was busy
driving him to the ice. That means if Walkom had made the correct call --
roughing on the Red Wings -- than Hjalmarsson's goal would not have been waved
off due to a delayed penalty call.
But it was waved off, much to the chagrin of the crowd of 22,000 people who
turned out to watch Chicago pull off a memorable series comeback. Luckily, the
Blackhawks were able to regroup after a bonehead decision by an official
nearly cost them a series. After fighting back from a 3-1 deficit in the
series, it would've been a shame to see Chicago go down under such
So, when Brent Seabrook wristed a puck off the leg of Detroit defenseman
Niklas Kronwall and past Howard just 3:35 into the extra session, all seemed
right in the world of hockey. And you can bet Walkom breathed a sigh of
relief, knowing the storm that was about to hit him if the Red Wings had won
the decisive game.
Of course, this is not to take anything away from the Red Wings, who proved
they were a much better team than the No. 7 next to their name indicated.
Chicago's superior depth may have won out over the course of seven games, but
Detroit held its ground as the Blackhawks turned the tide and the last two
battles of the series were decided by only one goal.
Head coach Mike Babcock and his staff deserve high marks for beating second-
seeded Anaheim in seven games during the first round and taking the
Presidents' Trophy winners to the limit in the conference semifinals. They
deserve respect for this year's playoff run, but in light of Walkom's call, a
trip to the West finals would've seemed like a gift.
In the wake of Wednesday's Game 7, the NHL is ready to move forward with a
conference final round filled with each of the last four Stanley Cup winners.
The Blackhawks face the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings for
West bragging rights, while the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins battle
it out in the Eastern Conference finals.
With only marquee franchises remaining in the postseason tournament, the NHL
has its dream scenario. Funny how it could've been a nightmare if Walkom's
decision altered the final outcome in favor of Detroit.
RANGERS CUT TIES WITH TORTS
John Tortorella is a divisive figure, and it seems his "love it or leave it"
style has finally cost him his job as head coach of the New York Rangers.
Shortly after New York announced the decision to fire Tortorella on Wednesday,
the rumors that his players wanted him gone had already begun in earnest.
Indeed, there seems to be something to these rumors and that shouldn't be a
surprise to anyone who's paid attention to the irascible Tortorella's routine
over the past several years.
Still, the exact nature of Tortorella's dismissal could remain mostly a
mystery. The most popular theory is how star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist's
recent non-committal response when asked about signing a long-term extension
with the Rangers signaled to ownership and general manager Glen Sather that a
change had to be made.
The Rangers were the No. 1 seed in the East a year ago when they made it to
the conference finals. This season, the Blueshirts bowed out in five games to
Boston in the second round and that was enough to build the case against
Tortorella. Perhaps the possibility of a player revolt was enough to put the
final nails in his coffin.
No matter how you feel about Tortorella's brusque attitude toward the media
and players, the guy led Tampa Bay to a Stanley Cup title in 2004 and is
someone who isn't likely to be out of work for long.
Even if his Rangers' teams underperformed in the playoffs, he still has value
as a head coach in the league. But if prospective employers expect Torts to
tone down his act in light of his recent firing, they probably are mistaken.
Those who know him say Torts is consistent in his rough behavior and isn't
putting on an act. To some that's a breath of fresh air and to others his
attitude creates a toxic atmosphere. As the rumors continue to flow out the
Rangers' locker room, it's increasingly evident the latter opinion became the
predominant viewpoint in New York.
The Sports Network