Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz said after his team’s Game 2 loss that the Capitals needed to “go to places that we haven’t gone before” to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, because “they’ve gone to places in their room that you go when you win a championship.”
Now, some people … OK, one person, thought that meant crafting a nefarious plot to injure Sidney Crosby. But Trotz was talking, in a broader sense, about winning by any means necessary: From nailing the details to having unwavering confidence to, yes, doing some underhanded things to excel.
So with Game 4 on the line and the Penguins – missing Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, Matt Murray and nary a beat in this series – clinging to a lead, Nick Bonino went to a place that players always claim they don’t want to go, and yet always do:
He snapped his head back to draw a high-sticking penalty on T.J. Oshie in the last two minutes of the game.
The stick never hit him in the face. It was complete fakery.
Oshie took the blame after the game, calling it an “amateur play” on his part. “I don’t think I hit him hard but I’ve been on the other side,” he said.
That he has. On the other side of Bonino’s stick, actually, in last year’s playoffs, and pulling the same kind of performance out of it:
Oshie sells a high stick on bonino in last years playoffs and now the roles are reversed this year. Karma? ????????♂️ pic.twitter.com/2poq4zLHme
— X-Wing (@Alici0usness__) May 4, 2017
Capitals fans remembered this. They remembered every time Alex Ovechkin has done something similar to draw a call. To their credit, on social media, the Bonino head fake wasn’t noted as the “reason they lost the game.” Perhaps they were too distracted by their team’s inability to take out a Penguins team that had its heart ripped out in Game 3.
All of this is a reminder that there’s nothing more annoying than an NHL player lamented diving and embellishment. Yes, repeat offenders should be called out by their peers and the NHL for realizing all of your “soccer on ice!” fears. But everyone tries to draw a call at some point. It’s a tactic that’s never leaving the game, and a vital one in a close contest that could influence a controversial call.
Like, for example, a goalie interference call that needs a little embellishment to go from iffy to undeniable.
Corey Perry interfered with Cam Talbot on the Anaheim Ducks’ first goal of Game 4, which sparked a rally that eventually resulted in their 4-3 win to even their series with the Edmonton Oilers. But a challenge to the ruling failed to overturn the goal, and after the game Talbot wondered what place he needed to go in order to earn one.
“I thought that was pretty obvious. I don’t know what else to say on that one. I mean, I try to play with integrity and not flop and dive. I don’t get the call. Maybe I need to start doing that to get the call. I don’t know what else to do on that one,” said Talbot.
You flop to get the call. That’s what you do.
Hey, he lost the game. But at least he has his integrity, right? Well, at least until the next time something like this happens and Talbot takes a fall, because now he gets what the playoffs require.
As that old edict from NASCAR legend Richard Petty goes: “If you ain’t trying to cheat a little, you ain’t likely to win much.”
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