After New York eliminated the Capitals from the Stanley Cup playoffs Monday night, Alex Ovechkin sounded off about the possibility of a league conspiracy to force the series to a seventh game.
“Not saying there was a phone call, but they wanted Game 7,” Ovechkin said in a Russian interview with Slava Malamud of Sport-Express. “For ratings. You know, lockout, escrow, league must make profit.”
It was the strongest public comment about the officiating in the series from the Capitals, who had been openly disgruntled about the calls since the conclusion of Game 6. On Wednesday, General Manager George McPhee supported Ovechkin’s concerns and shared his own displeasure with the officiating.
“I don’t think there’s a league conspiracy but it sure didn’t feel right. Alex wasn’t wrong,” McPhee said when asked directly about Ovechkin’s accusation. “I talked to them during the series but at some point you stop. They’ll referee the way they want to referee.”
The Capitals finished the first-round series with 16 power-play opportunities, while the Rangers received 28. New York was the least penalized team in the regular season with an average of 9.2 penalty minutes per game.
For comparison sake, the Caps-Rangers series didn’t even feature the largest discrepancy in the first round — that was San Jose-Vancouver. The Sharks had 24 power play opportunities to 10 for the Canucks.
“What we didn’t get a chance to do was go on the power play very often, and it was a real strength of ours,” McPhee said. “It was real good during the season. We didn’t get many power plays during the series, I don’t know why. We had to kill too many penalties, I don’t know why. I didn’t think that part of the game from the league standpoint was all that good. I didn’t like the refereeing, but if you complain about it during the series and you’re accused of trying to gain an edge. If you complain about it after a series is over, then it’s whining and sour grapes.”
Meanwhile, as the Rangers prepare for their second-round series against Boston, which opens Thursday, Coach John Tortorella shared his own take on the Capitals’ viewpoint.
“We’ve got everybody and their brother whining out there in Washington about what happened in that series,” Tortorella told reporters in New York Tuesday according to Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News. “And I think that’s a big reason they lose that series.”