IS LOCAL REF TOO TOUGH ON PENS?


My column in Saturday's Trib was a refreshing plethora of Penguins/NHL notes. (Click HERE to read.) Here's a little P.S. in the wake of Saturday night's 2-1 overtime loss at Ottawa.

*Furman South is a Pittsburgh resident who played NCAA Division I hockey at Robert Morris University from 2008-12. He made his debut as an NHL referee on April 6, 2017.

When he works Penguins games, South seems to give the Penguins zero breaks, or even what play dictates they should get.

Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang got cracked in the head repeatedly Saturday. No calls. The Senators got five power plays to the Penguins' two despite the Pens dominating possession and topping the Senators in shots (36-29), shot attempts (85-43) and scoring chances (37-18).

South refereed when the Penguins lost 4-3 to visiting Tampa Bay Nov. 15. At one point, the Penguins got three minor penalties in 10 seconds. The Lightning's Brayden Point used that to score three power-play goals in 91 seconds.

Obviously, South referees with a partner. But it's easy to wonder whether South tries to avoid claims of favoring his hometown team by going dramatically in the opposite direction.

*Here is Bryan Rust's season in a nutshell: He intercepted a Senators pass that would have led to a short-handed breakaway...and the puck's impact knocked Rust's stick out of his hands. That's how you score just one goal in 28 games.

*Jean-Sebastien Dea was flying in Ottawa. His goal was a simple matter of speed, then finish. He didn't have to waste a move. Dea just motored. If the Penguins are, truly, still based primarily on speed, Dea should be in the lineup every night.

*Evgeni Malkin cheated on a line change in overtime, and it cost the Penguins the game. Too many men. Power play. Pens lose.

It's bad enough Malkin has just one goal and two assists and is minus-6 in his past six games. He can't make stupid mistakes like that.

Don't blame Jake Guentzel. If he was slow getting to the bench, it's because he was gassed. Guentzel didn't slack.

*If Saturday's loss offered any consolation, it's that defenseman Marcus Petterson played his third straight solid game since joining the Penguins. Petterson is plus-2 and has formed a good pairing with Jack Johnson. Johnson has looked better in tandem with Petterson than he has all season. 

Image courtesy of nhlofficials.com.

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