One of the underlying storylines during the Capitals’ first-round series loss to the Rangers was the discrepancy in penalty calls.
In seven games, Washington committed 34 penalties totaling 76 minutes. New York, which averaged the fewest penalty minutes per game during the regular season, earned 21 penalties for 42 minutes in the series. The Rangers had a first-round-high 28 power-play opportunities as a result, compared with only 16 for the Capitals, including only four over the final three games.
After Game 6, in which the Capitals had zero power play chances to the Rangers’ five, players were openly displeased by what they saw as an “outlandish” disparity, as Troy Brouwer put it.
Alex Ovechkin was even more critical after Game 7 on Monday, intimating that the NHL was conspiring against the Capitals for financial reasons.
“I am not saying there was a phone call from [the league], but someone just wanted Game 7,” Ovechkin told Slava Malamud of Russia’s Sport-Express. “For the ratings, you know, the lockout, escrow. The league needs to make profit.”
During Washington’s final media availability of the season Wednesday, general manager George McPhee did not necessarily disagree with his captain’s assertion.
“I don’t think there’s a league conspiracy,” McPhee said. “But it sure didn’t feel right. And Alex wasn’t wrong.
“I didn’t think that part of the game, from the league standpoint, was all that good,” he continued, later adding that he did speak to the league about the matter. “I didn’t like the refereeing, but if you complain about it during the series, 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.”
That’s exactly how it came across to Rangers coach John Tortorella, who was not shy about expressing his opinion on the subject to New York reporters as his team prepares to face the Bruins in the second round.
“We’ve got everybody and their brother whining out there in Washington about what happened in that series,” Tortorella said. “And I think that’s a big reason they lose that series.”