Should Vinny Lecavalier have been smarter, or should the referee have a thicker skin?
There was an interesting sequence at the end of the Tampa Bay Lightning's game with the Capitals on Sunday that, depending on how you look at it, was ill-advised on the part of captain Vinny Lecavalier or an incredible overreach by referee Chris Rooney, who, basically, decided that with 2.4 seconds left and the Lightning down by one goal, he would not allow Tampa Bay a last-ditch effort to score.
Here was the situation:
Tampa Bay trailed 3-2 with 2.4 seconds left and had pulled goalie Mike Smith for a faceoff deep in the Capitals zone. Not that the odds were with the Lightning here but anything can happen, right? Lecavalier lined up for the faceoff against David Steckel and, the way Lecavalier tells it, on two false-start drops of the puck by linesman Bryan Pancich the players prematurely engage. After the second time, and this is not in dispute, Steckel and another Capitals player yelled at Pancich to throw Lecavalier out of the circle. And he did.
Steckel even admitted after the game he was trying to get Lecavalier out of the play.
"I didn't know if (Pancich) would kick him out with the situation of the game, but I'm trying to gain any advantage I can," Steckel said. "If he isn't taking the draw, that's better for me."
Lecavalier got mad and started mouthing off and got a two-minute penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct from Rooney, which not only took the captain off the ice but moved the faceoff into the Capitals end -- end of game.
"Their guys intimidated him to kick me out," Lecavalier said. "Their guys were yelling, 'Come on, look at him, throw him out,' and he kicked me out. That's why I got upset. It didn't seem like his decision."
To be clear here, Lecavalier was not mad at Steckel or the Capitals. He was mad at the linesman and referee. And let's be doubly clear, Steckel said he never said anything to Lecavalier and has great respect for the Lightning center. That is probably why Steckel admitted that if the situation had been reversed, he would have "screamed my (rear end) off" at the officials.
So, here's the question: Should Lecavalier have been smarter given the situation, or should the referee have let some bad words pass given the situation in a game in which Tampa Bay had fought back from a two-goal deficit, only to lose the lead on an unfortunate play that included defenseman Mike Lundin losing his stick?
This has always been a pet peeve of mine. I think linesman should simply drop the puck when players line up for a faceoff. It seems way too often players make false starts and get thrown from the circle when a quick drop of the puck is called for. And I don't know what Lecavalier said, but seems to me referees who are officiating an emotional sport in which players are beating the crap out of each other in a confined space, can take it when someone calls them a name. A warning, maybe two, and then if the abuse continues, call something. But, as a rule -- and, again, I don't know all the details about Sunday's exchange -- have a thick skin, especially when a game is on the line.
What was that old line from John Tortorella? Let the players decide the game.