I love playoff hockey... ANY playoff hockey.... but I also think it's one of the worst hockey out there. Why? Well... mostly it is due to hypocrisy.
All throughout the regular season, teams play the game and commit penalties. Sometimes these infractions result in suspensions, fines, and so on. Ah, but then the playoffs begin and it's all changed!
The playoff rulebook has come into play!
This rule book is the most hypocritical, imo, rules entity in professional sports. I've watched playoff hockey this year in both the USHL and the NHL and they're both the same. It takes an act of God to get the refs to raise their arms. Why? What happens when the postseason begins that makes a call that is made ALL SEASON LONG no longer required? If the refs aren't enforcing the rulebook, why do we have 2 refs and 2 ARs on the ice? Why not just have 2 ARs just to call offsides, icing, and drop the puck on faceoffs and just rely upon the video replay judge and the goal judges to determine goals? There is no reason for refs if the rulebook is optional.
Yesterday, we saw two overt spears in Corey Perry and Milan Lucic. Neither resulted in penalties being called. Lucic's resulted in a wrist smacking $5,000 fine. Well, the message is clear. Your stars can spear guys and they'll only lose part of a game check! NO PENALTY!!! I'm too used to the NCAA rulebook that states that spearing is a 5 minute major and game ejection. It's legal in the NHL, I guess. It's also legal to slash a stick in two pieces if it results in a scoring opportunity (ala Anaheim's short handed goal by Cogliano).
I LOVE the game of hockey. I LOVE a good, clean, hardfought, physical game. But I'm also a big proponent of the rulebook. I believe truly that the rulebook is in place for essentially two main reasons: 1. Integrity of the game itself and 2. Player safety. If the rulebook isn't going to be enforced, then I hope the playoff teams have good insurance and travel policies because someone's going to leave on a stretcher and they'll need a body to fill the void ASAP.
In the NHL, IMO, cheap shots occur when enforcers are handcuffed due to situational concerns and/or the rulebook AND the officials either have lost control of the game or refuse to enforce the rulebook. Yes, I LOVE games like what we saw with Chicago vs. St. Louis. I LOVED last year's Finals between Boston and Chicago. But I LOATHE games where the sport is made even more dangerous than it has to be because the playoff rulebook is in effect.
I'm not sure where the money comes from to pay refs for NHL games. However, if the playoff rulebook is truly as optional as the rules have been applied thus far, help out the common man in the playoffs. Simply do not put any armbanded refs on the ice at all and save the money spent to pay them by passing the savings onto the playoff attendee. If this sounds ridiculous, then it's time to start using the rulebook again and saving the integrity and health of the players before someone gets seriously hurt.
And I haven't even begun about the USHL. USHL playoff rulebooks remind me a TON of the clutch and grab style of WCHA officiating back in the early 2000s... even down to the fact that, even when they DO call penalties, it will be a LOCK that neither team will have an advantage on the powerplay... even if they have to invent a penalty to make it equal (which I've witnessed personally).
Save the game. You don't have to call everything. You just have to call the same game as you do during the regular season.