The emotion on the Phoenix Coyotes side of the Dustin Brown hit on their defenceman Michal Rozsival is understandable.
But that should not obscure the fact the Los Angeles Kings forward made a clean body check on Rozsival, even though it knocked him out of the game at a critical time with a leg injury. It was not a classic knee-on-knee hit, as the Coyotes charged, because although Brown had Rozsival lined up - in the trolley tracks in the hockey vernacular - he never stuck his knee out.
What might have led to some confusion is that Brown had his legs spread somewhat in a wide stance as he came at Rozsival. But he only altered his course slightly as Rozsival moved to the middle, nor did he change his stance to put his knee out farther as he came into contact with the Coyotes defenceman. The contact actually began at the shoulder before their legs collided violently.
There might have been some question about the lateness of the hit but it seemed to be within that half-second NHL referees gave players to make a hit on another player who just moved the puck.
Not that this means much to the Coyotes, of course. Not only did they miss a chance for a power play in overtime against the Kings, the goal that sent the visitors to the Stanley Cup final was scored seconds later.
Hence the raw emotion in the handshake line after the Kings won the Western Conference final. Coyotes captain Shane Doan and goaltender Mike Smith were still furious when the media closed in.
"All season long it seems like [the referees]did everything they could to not get us to this position," Smith said. He brought up the suspension teammate Raffi Torres received for an egregious hit earlier in the playoffs and said, "If Raffi Torres gets 25 games for a hit during the play, then this guy should be done forever."
Doan was equally unwilling to cut the referees any slack.
"I bit my tongue the whole playoffs," he said. "I bit my tongue the whole time this series. I look back in the last two games and I still haven’t found where I got my three penalties. I have absolutely no idea where they came from or what they were calling.
"It’s hard because you don’t want to take anything away from LA. They played unbelievable and give them all the credit. Uncle. Are you freaking kidding me? Uncle. I can’t understand how you miss that.
"Rosie’s knee is blown out. How do you miss that? How do you miss that when it’s after the whistle and it’s a knee? How do you possibly miss that? You know what? As player I get in trouble when I make a mistake. I get in big trouble. I get called out by you guys. I get called out by everybody. I get called out by my coaches. I have to be accountable to my teammates. I don’t know how you miss it. I don’t know how you miss it.
"I’m sure they’ll have a great explanation for it. I know that they try to do their best, I know they always try to do their best. They’re going to make mistakes. It’s just tough when you’re on the short end of it I don’t know how many times."
In his own defence, Brown said his hit began at the shoulder. He said he did change his path but only because Rozsival did as well and he never stuck his knee out.
"Rozsival was cutting to the middle and I cut across and made contact," Brown said. "Obviously they thought it was kneeing. I felt I got him with my shoulder. My left side and his right side all made contact, from toe to shoulder.
"I saw him cut in the middle. I changed my path to meet him in the middle. I haven't seen a replay so I don't know, but I felt like I made contact [with]my whole left side with his left side. My shoulder hit his shoulder for sure. I hit him from toe to shoulder on my left side, full contact. He's trying to get out of the way and I'm trying to finish my check. My first thought is, I didn't stick my knee out. He's trying to get out of the way and I finish my check."
Doan and some other Coyotes were seen berating Brown in the handshake line after the game. Brown declined to relay any details of the conversations.
Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett told reporters to "just write what you saw." But he, too, gave the impression the referees were one of his team's problems.
"If you write what you saw, you’ll see why people get frustrated," he said. "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.
"Ultimately, the last two games, I thought were our best games, but they were too late. LA beat us. That’s what should be remembered, not the refereeing."Report Typo/Error