Rangers coach hints at issues with penalty calls in playoffs

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Washington Capitals
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

At first glance, the disparity between penalty calls against the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference First Round appears nominal. Over the first three games of the series, the Rangers have been assessed 17 minor penalties and the Capitals 14. Leading the minor-penalty parade are two Rangers’ rookies, Matt Rempe (3) and Will Cuylle (2).

In New York’s Game 3 win on Friday, Rempe was assessed a first-period Interference penalty for a huge hit on Washington’s Trevor van Riemsdyk that knocked the defenseman out of the match. Later in the third, Cuylle was ridiculously called for boarding Martin Fehervary.

Both players are big and physical, trying their best to use those attributes to their advantage. Yet, it seems every time they try and do so, referees are throwing up their arms to call a minor. There’s no better example than in Game 2 on Tuesday at the Garden, when Rempe hit Lucas Johansen with his hands a little high and received a roughing penalty.

“I do have thoughts.” coach Peter Laviolette responded when asked about the referees after Game 3, but wisely opted not to comment any further.

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Rangers coach hints at issues with penalty calls

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Washington Capitals
Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Laviolette may not be able to say much regarding the officiating, but he had plenty of support from one of the greatest players to ever lace up skates.

“I thought it was clean,” NHL on TNT analyst Wayne Gretzky said of Rempe’s hit. “I was a little worried it was a touch late. But had the Washington player had his head up, he would’ve seen him coming. If you don’t seem him coming, you have to hear him coming. And if you don’t hear him coming, you have to know he’s on the ice. He’s a big train out there.”

Gretzky wasn’t alone in his sentiments with fellow TNT analysts, Anson Carter and Paul Bissonnette in full agreement. As for the Cuylle boarding penalty, MSG analyst Joe Micheletti looked at the replay several times disagreeing with the referee’s assessment and called it a good hit.

So far, these penalties have not come up to bite the Rangers as they’ve killed 13 of 15 Capitals’ power plays and scored two shorthanded goals. That being said, if the referees are going to penalize Rempe and Cuylle for being too big and strong, it could become a serious problem as the postseason progresses.

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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