Chicago Blackhawks-St. Louis Blues Game Features NHL, NBC Ignorance
By Colin Likas
As easy as it was to get upset by the Chicago Blackhawks’ play in a 5-2 loss last night to the St. Louis Blues, egregious oversights by both the NHL and its main broadcast partner were arguably more infuriating
It wasn’t a ton of fun to watch the Chicago Blackhawks last night, as they were summarily outplayed by the St. Louis Blues in a 5-2 setback. Perhaps the best part of the night was Blackhawks TV analyst Eddie Olczyk returning to the booth and calling the action on NBC Sports Network alongside Doc Emrick.
I was certainly frustrated with the Blackhawks’ play in this latest loss. But I felt more annoyed by some wild oversights by the NHL and NBC on the night, something I’d say falls in the territory of ignorance more than accident.
Let’s start with the league’s latest slip-up, which occurred on a Blackhawks goal late in the third period against the Blues.
Unclear rules trump potential injuries
Let’s check out this powerplay goal by Ryan Hartman, achieved when he drove to the net and deflected home a shot by Alex DeBrincat.
This play was reviewed due to contact between Hartman and goaltender Jake Allen. It was pretty clear Hartman only ran into Allen because of a push from behind by Blues forward Kyle Brodziak, but the argument for challenging was apparently that Hartman didn’t use the 1.5 seconds after he was pushed to find his way out of the crease.
The goal stood, but there were multiple problems here. I’ll start with the greater of the two, and that’s that everyone on the ice and in the broadcast booth ignored a pretty vicious penalty by Brodziak.
He body slams Hartman on the back of his head, something that would’ve been “just a hockey play” not long ago. Now, it’s a pretty bogus attempt at injury, and Hartman was clearly seen grabbing the back of his head after the event.
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No one on the ice did anything. Not a thing. No one in the broadcast booth even mentioned the play, focusing more on whether a garbage-time goal would count because of shoddy rule writing.
This is the NHL’s ignorance in a nutshell. The league claims to care about concussions and preventing injuries, but it lets a thing like that go unpenalized less than a week after deciding Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury fielding a knee to the head wasn’t worthy of pulling him off the ice under league concussion protocol.
Meanwhile, we have a nice increase in penalties to slashes. Yeah, because that’s what’s hurting all the NHL players. There was that vicious Sidney Crosby slash on Marc Methot late last season that received ample press time (admittedly because Crosby was involved), but we’re going to ignore one player trying to injure another by slamming him into ice on the back of his head.
And it’s clear NBC’s crew takes the NHL’s war on concussions about as seriously as the league does, because not one of the Emrick-Olczyk-Pierre McGuire trio could be bothered to say a peep about Hartman or Brodziak beyond analyzing the possible interference.
This is bogus and infuriating ignorance on the part of the NHL and further shows this league has minimal true interest in keeping its players safe. Athletes will see what happened on that play and know that, as long as it’s after a goal, it’s totally cool to maul a guy. Because we’re looking to see if there was interference, versus a potentially life-altering injury.
NBC misses the boat, Part I
I have two gripes with NBC’s game coverage from last night that I also think fall into the “ignorant” field. The first has to do with the aforementioned goal, but the NHL has its role in my complaint as well — the second of my “multiple problems” mentioned above.
If you were watching the game live, all you could hear Olczyk and McGuire saying was, “That’s no goal.” I know Eddie has far more important things on his mind, and I know Pierre is a bit of a space cadet, but these two are not dumb. That was the most obvious incidental contact since … well, since Schwartz bumped Corey Crawford prior to his first-period tally in the same game.
But here comes the NHL again, not making rules anywhere near clear enough and causing its lead broadcast station’s top guys to vomit on themselves trying to figure out what is and isn’t a goal anymore. It’s just infuriating, and it has to be both confusing and annoying for new fans to try and comprehend what they’re seeing.
Things like this happen all the time with NHL games on the national stage, and the league continues to trot out its vague rules that no broadcaster is clear on. Fans are therefore confused, as they are relying on those broadcasters to deliver the appropriate interpretation of what they just saw.
If the NHL was honestly serious about growing its American fan base (and it isn’t), it would make sure all its rules actually make sense before allowing NBC’s guys — the supposed cream of the crop — to become utterly baffled by what should’ve been a pretty simple call.
Da Windy City
NBC misses the boat, Part II
My second point of contention, however, is all on NBC. It should surprise none of you this has to do with Mike Milbury and Crawford.
Watching the game in real time, you may have noticed a second-intermission preview graphic that promised a segment on Crawford’s “mistakes.” Let’s go over the goals up to that point in the game.
Goal 1: Jaden Schwartz chills along the boards as Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook forget all about him. All five guys on the ice focus on Vladimir Tarasenko, who fires an easy pass to the all-alone Schwartz on the doorstep. Schwartz beats Crawford, because how couldn’t he? This is somehow Crow’s “mistake.”
Goal 2: Schwartz again gets behind the Chicago defense, this time on an abysmal line change (although Seabs was actually in front of Schwartz, just on the opposite side of the ice). Allen bounces a pass off the boards to Schwartz, who goes in for a break. Crow goes out to challenge, but doesn’t decide soon enough whether he wants to poke check or not. Schwartz goes around him and scores.
Now Crow does have to make that decision sooner, for sure. That’s a gaffe on his part. But let’s be honest: Schwartz had a very good chance of scoring there regardless of what Crow did. It was a breakaway from the blue line. But hey, that’s Crow’s “mistake” to let him get that break, right?
Goal 3: Artem Anisimov is pitifully stripped of the puck between his own circles. Tarasenko collects, spins and fires past Crow. If only Crow had told Anisimov not to turn over the puck sooner. What a “mistake” by the netminder.
This is willful ignorance on the part of Milbury and NBC, to bury a goaltender who kept his team from being down 6-0 because they couldn’t think of anything else to talk about. That’s just laziness, and they took the route of bashing Crow because, hey, everyone on social media does it.
Pitiful coverage on a national telecast, when newer fans are tuning in and will take most, if not all, of what they hear at face value. Segments like that are a great way to point fans in the entirely wrong direction about what is actually happening on the ice, thus bringing down the entire product.
Fans are exhausted by the Blackhawks being on so many national broadcasts because of overexposure. Frankly, I’m exhausted by it because we have to listen to extremely poor commentary throughout.
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I think Doc and Eddie are generally great, and Pierre can actually offer decent insights when not trying to play little brother. But beyond that and someone like Anson Carter joining the studio team, it tends to be just brutal and soaked with ignorance.