When You Hear Hoofbeats, Expect To See A Zebra

ARTHUR:
Before the first puck dropped, the predetermined storyline for the Ducks/Preds series, according to the hockey pundits, was Weber-Suter versus Perry-Getzlaf. After Game 2, it was the Bobby Ryan stomp. After Game 3, it was the officiating.

Now, with Anaheim returning home for Game 5 and home ice advantage, Daniel, what do you think the storyline is in this series?

DANIEL:
I think the storyline of this series is penalties. I don't see how it can be anything but penalties after Murray's moderately ridiculous outburst. From here on out, every penalty will be heavily scrutinized, and the diving accusations, from both sides, are more than likely going to continue. The penalty discussion is fueling the hate that has started to manifest in this series.

On top of that, special teams play is determining the outcome of games. Last night the Ducks had two power play goals and a shortie, to the Preds one power play goal. While the number of power play goals hasn't always been the determining factor, both teams have used the PP to jump to early leads, and both teams have had to endure long stretches where the majority of calls aren't going their way. It seems that almost every game, there's a string of 2-3 penalties that will all go against one team. This is a major disruption to the flow of the contests, and it takes each team off its respective game.

To me, the referees have been the storyline of this series. They did a good job last night of not letting it get too chippy near the end, but, overall, the calls of the refs have decided who wins these games.

ARTHUR:
Yeah, I have to agree that the referees are front and center. Whether or not their calls are scrutinized, penalties are shifting momentum and deciding games. It's getting to the point where there are three gameplans playing out on the ice, and the stripes' gameplan takes priority.

And while I think we all assume the series would be even more physically contentious without their whistle work, I don't think any of us can be sure, especially with the calls that have been missed. Don't get me wrong. I don't envy any of them their jobs out there. I don't automatically see a crosscheck to the head and think they've decided to call the game one way for that particular moment. Things get missed; the element of human officiating is part of the game. But it's awful to see this series played out in the interstices of the rulebook instead of the lines on the ice.

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