Kings deserved to advance but were aided by the men in stripes:

Kings deserved to advance but were aided by the men in stripes: Cimaglia

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Once again there will not be a repeat Stanley Cup Champion as Los Angeles defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime in Game 7. It was a series neither team deserved to lose. The Kings caught a few breaks but probably deserved the victory more than the Hawks.

The beauty of the NHL playoffs is when a series goes seven games and ends in overtime the drama and the finality is like no other sport. The downside of having a series go the distance and end in sudden death is that a bounce, a break or missed calls can mean the difference.

There are no acceptable excuses for the Blackhawks. They had home ice advantage and got a two goal lead and were caught and defeated. If the series was broken down period by period the Kings had the edge in play and were the better team in crunch time during Game 7.

This season ended with a loss for the Hawks, but it is a distinct achievement to make it to the Conference Final after winning the Cup.

To not signify the consequences of a missed offside or a couple of questionable non-calls on a national telecast doesn’t help promote the game of hockey. In fact it ignores a problematic issue of inconsistent officiating which at some point prevents the game from getting the recognition it truly deserves. It appears some in the national media feel it is best to not criticize officiating, so mistakes are ignored or not focused on as much as warranted.

Los Angeles will be playing for the Stanley Cup because they did a better job in the neutral zone for much of the third period. The Kings were able to gain a good amount of offensive zone time and finally were able to tie the score. It wasn’t because the Blackhawks went into a defensive shell, if anything they may have been too aggressive on the Kings fourth tally. It was more a case of the Kings doing the better work and creating enough chances to score, but no doubt they were aided by the men in stripes.

The Kings deserve a great deal of credit being the only team to ever win three seven game series and advance to the Cup Final. What makes the accomplishment even more amazing is Los Angeles won all three series with Game 7 road wins.

Because the Kings are a fine team with a strong will to win it makes it uncomfortable to say they got lucky to win Game 7, but it wouldn’t be factual to say anything else.

An unbiased critique, not one looking to shield the officials must include three questionable calls that took place in the third period and in OT. Two of the three calls led to Los Angeles goals and one non-call prevented a Chicago power play or possibly a penalty shot in OT.

In the third period a Dustin Brown shot caromed off of Corey Crawford as a hard working Marian Gaborik went to the net. The puck wasn’t controlled by Crawford and bounced off of Gaborik. The Kings swift wing corralled the puck when it hit the ice and put it in behind Crawford.

What seemingly went unnoticed was the play should have been blown dead. Gaborik’s left skate crossed the blueline before the puck entered the zone. The linesman was about four or five feet from Gaborik but he missed the call. Troy Murray on the Chicago radio broadcast made mention of the blown call but not a peep was said on the national telecast.

In real time it was difficult for me to see because the press box is a long way from the ice. With the benefit of slo-mo and a replay it was clear Gaborik was about one full skate offside. A linesman isn’t perfect but in this case his view wasn’t blocked. He is trained to make those calls but a missed whistle allowed the Kings to score their fourth goal.

Then in OT, Brandon Saad was hooked by Slava Voynov on a clear goal scoring chance. Normally that’s a non-discretionary call by the referee as Voynov’s stick was parallel to the ice as he hooked Saad's hand. It was an obvious hooking penalty. At times during the regular season it probably would have been called a penalty shot. In overtime of a Game 7 a referee is reluctant to make that call, in this case the Hawks were on offense and didn’t get a whistle in their favor.

Unfortunately another seemingly non-discretionary call on Justin Williams, while the Blackhawks were on defense, was also not called and led to the game winning goal.

Williams, who is the NHL’s version of former New York Yankee slugger Reggie Jackson was involved. Williams does his best work late in a playoff series. In his career Williams has six goals and eight assists in seven, Game 7 appearances.

Sunday night, as Williams chased the puck into the Hawks zone he slashed Nick Leddy’s stick out of his hand. Williams then went behind the net and was able to capture the puck. Leddy didn’t stay with Williams as he went to the front of the net to retrieve his stick. Williams then passed toward the blueline to Alec Martinez who took a shot. The puck was tipped by Tyler Toffoli and bounced off of Leddy into the net.

If this was a regular season game, as Leddy’s stick flew out of his hand the whistle would blow and Williams would have been sent off for slashing. It would not have mattered Leddy had only one hand on his stick, slashing the stick the way Williams did is normally an automatic penalty.

It’s unfortunate rather than focus on how great a series this was much of my article needed to explain missed calls or non-non-calls that led to two Los Angeles goals. More unfortunate is the fact the NHL tweaks its rulebook more in the playoffs than any other major sport.

The better, deeper team won the series and the Kings are deserving Western Conference champions. The fact the Blackhawks were unable to play with four solid lines mattered as the Kings bottom six forwards were difference makers.

Maybe someday the NHL will be known for the skillfulness of players and not as a sport searching for the same rule interpretation from October through June. Possibly sooner than later those that provide coverage on national broadcasts will not bury their heads in the sand and will recognize officiating mistakes.

Things will likely never change if those in position keep missing the opportunity to shine a light on sub-par officiating. After all these are supposedly the highest graded officials at the most important time of the season.

I will be back soon with a 2013-2014 wrap-up and to share some thoughts on possible changes and areas of improvement for the Blackhawks. Until then you can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia.

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