What’s even more impressive about Maxim Lapierre’s game-winning goal last night is that earlier in the game he was shot in the stomach by Zdeno Chara.
The fact that Lapierre was able to recover from such a clearly devastating injury and continue playing is the kind of stuff that “History Will Be Made” commercials are made of.
Thanks to SBNation for the video.
One of the problems with many NHL players right now is that they snap their heads back and tumble to the ice after the slightest hint of contact. See our “Let’s Go Diving” post for a few more examples of this behaviour. These actions seem to increase in frequency as the games become more important, which has turned the Stanley Cup Final into a poorly-choreographed and badly-acted professional wrestling match. For a sport that takes such pride in toughness, it’s pretty embarrassing.
Players likely act this way since NHL referees seem to notice a high stick more when you snap your head back than one where the play continues without missing a beat. We can understand a bit of embellishment here and there as a way to draw attention to the fact that you’ve been fouled. It happens in almost every sport.
However, there’s a difference between snapping your head back a bit when you actually have been high-sticked and falling to the ice like both your legs have been broken and staying there motionless because someone else’s stick touched your skate.
And referees recognize that.
They won’t give a player like Maxim Lapierre the benefit of the doubt in situations like the one with Chara. By repeatedly making the referee’s look bad and making a mockery of the game, all players like Lapierre are doing is hurting their own team. Yes, Lapierre scored a huge goal for Vancouver and he’s certainly a valuable member of the Canucks and a big part of their team, but he’s not doing himself any favours with the officials with his actions.
If that was another player who was speared by Chara and that player didn’t react as if he just took a cannonball to the gut, Chara may have received a penalty there and the Canucks may have gone on the power play. That’s how diving hurts your team.
According to On the Forecheck, Lapierre received the most diving penalties during the regular season. The referees know his reputation and they’re not willing to allow themselves to look like fools when Lapierre flops down after a weak shot.
Take a look at this video for example:
Lucic likely should have been given a penalty here. However, since the referees don’t want to be embarrassed by anyone embellishing a hit, both Lucic and Burrows were sent to the box. Burrows was given a penalty for “unsportsmanlike conduct.” It was the referees telling the teams not to embellish. The Canucks’ reputation cost them a power play in this situation.
Is it right for officials to hand out penalties based on reputation? Probably not. But you can understand where they’re coming from. The only way to stop this behaviour from players is to show that nothing can be gained from doing it.