EL SEGUNDO -- Apparently, flopping isn’t limited to the NBA.
According to Phoenix Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, the NHL is falling into the same trap that has been a hot topic in the NBA playoffs. Players are exaggerating contact in an effort to coax referees into calling penalties. He indirectly accused the Los Angeles Kings of engaging in such theatrics during their Game 3 victory Thursday night at Staples Center, giving them a commanding 3-games-to-none lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals.
His description: Embellishment.
“The game is turning a little dishonest and it’s embellishment by the players,” he said following the 2-1 loss. “When it’s done well, it’s very hard for the referees, very hard, because if you fall down near the boards, or drop your stick or throw your head back, you’re putting the referee in a very tough situation.”
Asked about those comments Friday morning, a few of the Kings answered as if they were watching a different series.
“[Tippett] kind of cut the refs down, too, and they have the best of the best here,” second-line center Mike Richards said. “They know what’s embellishment and what’s not. I thought they’ve called a pretty good game.”
The Kings have been awarded 17 power plays in the series, compared to 10 for the Coyotes, and L.A. has scored twice with the man advantage. Phoenix, meanwhile, is still looking for its first power-play goal. The Kings also had more power plays against the Vancouver Canucks and St. Louis Blues in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi said the disparity in power plays could lead to some finger-pointing by the opposition, but the Kings have done a better job in the postseason of staying out of the penalty box. Most notably, they’ve limited the retaliation penalties that usually occur during a post-whistle scrum.
A prime example came in Game 3, when the Coyotes twice went to the box for unreciprocated roughing penalties, putting the Kings on the power play
“Whoever has more power plays that game is going to be happy and whoever has less is going to think the other team embellished,” Scuderi said. “We’ve been on the other end of it at times and felt that we were shortchanged. Apparently, in this series, it’s the other way around.”
The Kings were called for a diving penalty in Game 2, but that left many in the locker room scratching their heads. Dustin Brown was blindsided by a slash across the back of his legs by Phoenix goalie Mike Smith, immediately dropping him to the ice. Brown vehemently disagreed with the diving call.
“I still don’t understand, watching the clip, but most refs haven’t been slashed in the back of the leg, either,’’ Brown said the day after Game 2.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter said he usually talks with referees before a series to point out which players have a tendency to embellish contact. He said the Vancouver series had the most dives, but each series has gotten increasingly better.
“Supervisors and/or referees will come over and say, ‘You’ve got to cool it, next time it’s a dive,'“ Sutter said. “I haven’t heard that yet this series and, quite honestly, it really hasn’t been a part of it.”
Tippett, meanwhile, said during a conference call Friday afternoon that he's ready to turn the page.
“I’ve said my piece on embellishment,” he said. “Give L.A. credit, they’ve played very well.”