NHL

Fraser: Making the call (again) on embellishment

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Kerry Fraser
5/26/2014 1:31:30 PM
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Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at cmonref@tsn.ca.

Hey Kerry,

I was watching the NBC coverage of Sunday's Canadiens-Rangers game, and Mike Milbury and Ed Olczyk went off on the Canadiens for over-selling and embellishing to sell calls. In the third period, Carl Hagelin hit Alexei Emelin with a high stick and Emelin went down like a ton of bricks. Embellishment? Probably, but it didn't change the fact that it was a high stick. Did the sell by Emelin negate the high stick and the official basically said, "play on?" Or was this just a missed call?

Morgan,
New York, NY

Morgan:

I believe the play that you are referring to occurred with 8:24 remaining in the third period and the score tied at two. Carl Hagelin attempted a dump-in shot from the centre red line. 

Alexei Emelin lowered his posture to execute an active stick sweep check and contacted the puck as Hegelin was in the act of shooting. Emelin was legitimately struck in the mouth area with the blade of Haglin's stick on the follow-through of an attempted shot.

Emelin's reaction to rotate his body away from the stick contact, then fall and grab his mouth was reasonable and not an effort to embellish and draw a foul. A player is permitted accidental contact on an opponent if committed in a normal windup or follow through of a shooting motion.  No penalty was warranted to Hagelin on this play.

I concur with Mike Milbury and Eddie O's analysis with regard to obvious embellishment committed by PK Subban and Tomas Plekanec in the second period of Sunday night's game.

Even though the stick of Rick Nash did catch Subban in the face the upward launch with both legs was not a natural reaction or fall from being struck in that manner. Plekanec's theatrical performance was the absolute worst when he threw his head back and grabbed at his face after the flat blade of Brian Boyle's stick slapped nothing but shoulder pad!

Even though Boyle's stick did not quite fit the criteria of a "high stick (above the height of the opponents shoulders) it was used in a careless manner and could certainly result in a slashing penalty. Plekanec's embellishment was also worthy of a penalty that should have resulted in an on-ice numerical strength of four aside. Given Plekanec's blatant overreaction it could even been deemed a 'stand alone' embellishment penalty if the ref wanted to send a clear message but I doubt he would receive much support.

Power plays and special teams can often be the difference in these games as we have seen. Once the referees are fooled into calling a penalty or fail to respond to efforts of embellishment on a play the floodgates can open up without so much as a splash on the frozen pond.

In the first round of these current playoffs there were six diving/embellishment penalties assessed. None were a 'stand alone' diving penalty but deemed to be embellishment that was committed following the initial infraction. The first two embellishment penalties were assessed in Game 2 against Mats Zuccarello and Derek Dorsett of the Rangers in their 4-2 loss to the Flyers.

The Rangers management was not impressed with those penalty calls and expressed their displeasure to the series supervisor. I wonder if the Ranger brass is singing the same tune after Sunday night.

Since joining TSN in January of 2011 I have stated on numerous occasions the need to clean up the 'unmanly' act of diving. When uncalled, embellishment rewards cheaters. I am often asked how the ref can call both an initial penalty and a dive; isn't it one or the other?

In reality, embellishment is most often committed after a player has been legitimately fouled. When that occurs both illegal acts should be penalized. Three years ago I suggested that a double minor penalty be assessed to the 'diver' when he was legitimately fouled and the referee was calling a minor penalty. It would take some guts for the refs to impose a strict standard on a call like this but the game would be better for it. The referees also have to know their calls would receive the full support of management.

Until players that embellish are penalized by the referees and held accountable by the League with published fines and suspensions as prescribed in rule 64.3, this illegal act will continue to plague the game. It's time for everyone involved to man-up.

Tomas Plekanec (Photo: Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)
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