Refereeing is better than ever before in the NHL but interference in the goalies' crease remains a problem.
As soon as a goalie is successful, as is the case with Montreal Canadiens 'tender Cristobal Huet this season, the word goes out on the opposing teams to use every means to destroy his concentration.
A recent example was the Hurricanes' winning goal Friday night. Defenseman Niclas Wallin clearly prevented Huet from doing his job by positioning himself in the crease, while placing his stick between Huet's pads. We don't need those kind of goals.
That's how Huet momentarily lost sight of the puck, thus allowing Rod Brind'Amour to score the goal that made the difference. I find it a pity the referees don't deal severely with such violations more often, since they can cost the game. It seems to me enough goals have been scored like that since the start of the season without accepting these questionable goals as well.
The Hurricanes have succeeded by upsetting Huet's work and you can be certain they will not change their strategy.
If I can allow myself to give a little advice to Huet, it's to not cry to the referees because that won't do anything. It's been a long time since I lived with this type of situation, that of always having an opposing player in my face.
The best way to deal with it is to speak calmly with the officials. From the start of the game, I would tell them to watch a certain player because he will definitely invade the restricted zone.
There are players who specialize in blocking the movements of an opposing goalie. They touch you, jostle you or knock you out of position.
The referees in the Canadiens-Hurricanes series have come under fire for a number of reasons. Justin Williams injured Canadiens captain Saku Koivu with a high stick near his eye and, even if it was an accident, it was certainly worth a four-minute penalty.
It's incomprehensible the referees didn't see the infraction because Koivu was about to get a good chance to score. It's a real pity to declare a team can take one of the best opposing players out of a series without suffering the consequences.
This incident had an important impact on the series between the Canadiens and the Hurricanes. It's annoying to see Williams also hit Andrei Markov in the face during the last game without being punished.
Despite that, I still say the referees are doing some of their best work in general in the playoffs this year. They're calling more penalties and that makes for more exciting hockey. We see less crowding and fighting in front of the net, as was the case in the past.
The game is more open. A lead of two or three goals is no longer an indication of winning and the spectators appreciate that.
In addition, we've witnessed several turns of events in this first round of the playoffs. It's become very difficult to predict who's going to win and it's this parity the NHL has been seeking for a long time.