Any exit in the playoffs stings. Sometimes though, they sting worse than others, especially when it comes immediately after a questionable call. Or in this case a questionable no call.
Literally game seconds after Dustin Brown hit Michal Rozsival after an offside whistle, Dustin Penner scored to end the game, and the Phoenix Coyotes season. The series was done and the Kings were off to their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in almost 20 years.
But that hit, nobody could forget that hit. Here's a refresher or just a link to the hit if you haven't seen it yet. That was the backdrop for the post-series hand shake line which wasn't as cordial as we're used to seeing. Notice a few of the Coyotes, including Shane Doan, taking it as an opportunity to give Brown an earful (video via Puck Daddy).
The Coyotes didn't get it out of their system in the handshakes. No, Doan and goalie Mike Smith had some feelings they wanted to share afterward.
First, let's start with Doan. Here's what he said after the game to the media, courtesy of the CBC.
"I bit my tongue the whole playoffs," Doan said. "I bit my tongue the whole time this series. I look back in the last two games and I still haven't found where I got my three penalties. I have absolutely no idea where they came from or what they were calling.
"It's hard because you don't want to take anything away from L.A. They played unbelievable and give them all the credit. Uncle. Are you freaking kidding me? Uncle. I can't understand how you miss that. You saw the game. It's 5-on-3 and they give a penalty to even it up.
"The guy crosschecks Marty [Hanzal] twice in the back. He chips it over the boards, it goes over the boards and there's no call? Marty gets a stick in the face and then the knee? I mean, come on. Like, come on.
"You don't want to do it because I don't want to take anything away from L.A. They played unbelievable and they beat us. Thank goodness their power play didn't score on all those power plays they were handed. It could have been really ugly. They beat us. There's nothing else to say about it."
Except that wasn't all that he had to say about it. He also took the chance to discuss the Brown hit on Roszival. Let's just say he was miffed.
"I have no idea," Doan said. "I have no idea what they could have possibly said. How do you miss that? Rosie's knee is blown out. How do you miss that? How do you miss that when it's after the whistle and it's a knee? How do you possibly miss that?
"You know what? As player I get in trouble when I make a mistake. I get in big trouble. I get called out by you guys. I get called out be everybody. I get called out by my coaches. I have to be accountable to my teammates. I don't know how you miss it. I don't know how you miss it. I'm sure they'll have a great explanation for it. I'm sure they'll have a great explanation for it.
"I know that they try to do their best, I know they always try to do their best. They're going to make mistakes. It's just tough when you're on the short end of it I don't know how many times. You watch the last three games and you try and tell me where I got my penalties on my slashing penalty, or my roughing penalty or my holding penalty. The last three penalties I got, you tell me where I got them. It is what it is and they beat us."
That's the fine line Doan is walking there between complaining and venting. Pretty clearly he's not happy with the officials (I'm astute, aren't I?) but does his best not to diminish what the Kings did.
Smith? Well he was a bit more straightforward and harsh of the one King in particular; Brown (via CBC and Sarah McLellan).
"If [Coyotes forward] Raffi Torres gets 25 games for his hit during the play then this guy [Brown] ought to be done forever.
"It's even more disappointing that we not only got beat by them but we got beat by the officials too. It's not just this game but it's all season long it seems like they did everything they could to not get us to this position."
OK now, hold on just a second. A lifetime ban, Mike? I'll chalk up the emotions of a season-ending loss getting to him there. I am in the minority in thinking the hit wasn't bad, unfortunate but not bad. But even if I did concede it should have been a punishable offense, at the max it's a one-game suspension. Anything beyond that is crazy talk.
Then there is the persecution complex. Well, I think every team believes they are persecuted, never gets the calls. That's the nature of sports officiating. Every call goes against you and your team.
To his credit Coyotes coach Dave Tippett left it alone for the most part.
"I think you guys should just write what you saw," he said. "If you write what you saw, you'll see why people get frustrated. ... L.A. played well. Early in the series they played very well. Ultimately, the last two games, I thought were our best games, but they were too late. L.A. beat us. That's what should be remembered, not the refereeing."
For Brown's defense, the state would like to call Brown to the stand.
"I saw him cut in the middle," Brown said to the CBC. "I changed my path to meet him in the middle. I haven't seen a replay so I don't know, but I felt like I made contact [with] my whole left side with his left side. My shoulder hit his shoulder for sure. I hit him from toe to shoulder on my left side, full contact. He's trying to get out of the way and I'm trying to finish my check. My first thought is I didn't stick my knee out. He's trying to get out of the way and I finished my check."
Well that's a lot of opinions on the matter. But why not a couple more?
Jeremy Roenick and Mike Milbury, both never shy to form an opinion, were split on the issue after the game and had themselves a shouting match on the NBC Sports Net postgame show. The argument devolved to the point of becoming a "Nu-uh!" and "Yes-huh!!" shouting match. That makes for interesting viewing too.
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