NASHVILLE, Tennessee -- Ah, for the old days of hockey.
You know, the old days, such as the 2001-02 season, when the game officials at least attempted to be consistent in their calls of obstruction penalties.
This, unfortunately, is the 2003-04 season, and the officials appear to be blind to the obstruction blocking up the neutral zone, leaving skilled teams at a disadvantage against teams with less talent. Since no help seems to be forthcoming from the NHL's director of officiating, maybe the Red Wings need to try bringing a large supply of Drano to unclog center ice next time they visit Nashville. The Predators clutched, grabbed, and obstructed their way to a 1-0 win over the Red Wings.
If the NHL is wondering why goal scoring is down these days, if they're wondering why hockey is losing viewers, if they're wondering why the league is in such financial trouble, maybe they should try looking at their referees' inconsistent enforcement of obstruction.
Dan Hamhuis was the goal scorer for the Predators, but his goal didn't come until only 12:27 was left in the game. Goalie Tomas Vokoun made a very good save against Jason Woolley at the other end of the ice, clearing the way for Vladimir Orzagh to send Hamhuis flying up the ice with the puck. He unleashed a hard shot just as he crossed the blue line. Curtis Joseph appeared to be expecting a rising shot, but the puck slid along the ice and into the net.
The game up to that point had been a slow, choppy affair, with no sustained offensive pressure at either end of the ice. The Predators were unwilling to send more than one skater in to forecheck, and the Red Wings were unable to bring enough players into Nashville's territory to set up any kind of scoring play.
The game after that point picked up slightly, as the Red Wings became more desperate to get on the scoreboard. They pulled Joseph for an extra attacker with just over a minute remaining, but the Predators were able to clear the puck and hold it up behind Detroit's empty net until the final buzzer sounded.
Vokoun faced 21 shots durinng the course of the game. All of them were, of necessity, unscreened and easy to see. Joseph made 16 saves on 17 shots.
The Red Wings' next game will be Monday night when they host the St. Louis Blues.