Calls gone wild

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 4:06 PM ET

 VANCOUVER -- Matt Cooke likes it and so does Darryl Sutter.

 In fact, a quick survey of both dressing rooms at GM Place yesterday revealed almost everyone playing in the Calgary/Vancouver series is comfortable with the sudden crackdown on obstruction that has everyone talking.

  Heck, even Game 1 goat, Ville Nieminen, is all right with it.

 "I think they're setting a precedent that says, 'Just because it's the playoffs doesn't mean it's a rugby match,' " said Canucks winger Cooke.

 "I think it's good for the game. They're not trying to take away physical play -- they're not calling charges on big hits.

 "If you set this precedent, guys won't try to get away with stuff.

 "The only reason they're doing it is because guys are breaking the rules."

 The opening game of all eight playoff matchups except St.Louis/San Jose featured a inordinate number of penalties generally overlooked by officials during the regular season.

 Sutter even went as far as to count them, revealing an average of just under 10 minors a game.

 "Any player who watches the games the night before sees (the crackdown) and they won't do it," said Sutter, happy to see the first-game growing pains experienced by almost every team have done well to send a message league-wide.

 "I wish they'd call more.

 "They're allowing a lot of contact between bluelines but no surfing and no stick fouls.

 "As long as you're skating, you're not going to get called.

 "You hear the players talking about it and all they want is consistency. They're not machines, they're human. If you can get away with it, you get away with it."

 Craig Conroy said starting with the Montreal/Boston playoff-opener, which he and many of his Flames teammates watched parts of, it was obvious no one was getting away with anything.

 "Stupidity and laziness," said Conroy when asked to explain his club's penalty problems in Game 1. "We talked about it and it's something you just have to avoid -- hooking and obstruction. We've got enough speed, we don't need to do that."

 Canucks coach Marc Crawford said you can analyse the officiating all you want but the important thing is not the calls they make but how the players react to the revamped style of officiating.

 "You guys watched it in the Stanley Cup final last year and everybody complained about it," said Sutter, reiterating how fans and media alike should embrace the change in attitude amongst officials. "New Jersey just held everybody up and let Marty (Brodeur) make the saves."

 He's right, no one wants to see anymore of that. However, viewers find it awfully hard to watch a game in which 16 minors (like Wednesday) are called for seemingly insignificant infractions.

 "I have no idea whether the league sent out a memo to referees -- I don't believe any of us players got one," said Robyn Regehr, quick to point out the crackdown is not what cost the Flames Game 1.

 "Hey, we had more (powerplay) opportunities than they did in Game 1."

 Judging from the number of obstruction-hooking calls in Game 2 last night, players from both the Canucks and Flames are still adjusting to the latest crackdown.

 "My theory is the playoffs are a time to just let us play," said Flames defenceman Rhett Warrener. "But now we've got to be squeaky clean so the refs don't have a chance to make those calls."


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