- Alex Semin is leading the team in minor penalties this year with 11 in 15 games.
- He also leads the team with 71 penalties over the five-year period of his NHL career.
- After being warned that taking another bad penalty would lead to consequences, Semin was called for hooking on Friday's game against the Devils within the first ten minutes of play.
- He was subsequently benched for nearly the entire rest of the game, and ended the night with his lowest total playing time of his career, excluding injury.
- The following night, he was called for tripping 3:06 into the game.
On rewatching both the tripping call from last night and the hooking call from the night before, I have to say that neither of those look like actual infractions to me. I know, I'm getting in a bad habit of digging to find excuses for our star players, but take a look yourself, these are pretty noticeably awful calls. In the call from Friday night, I don't even see Semin's stick touching the Devils player when he goes down--he goes down on his own, Semin happens to be close, the referee sees these two things together and has read too much of the media spin about Semin's penalty problems. Bada bang.
Semin is getting frustrated. Really frustrated. His reaction to the tripping call last night was some of the most emotion I've ever seen from him on the ice. Especially if that call was as bad as it looks, I can understand where that frustration is coming from--in his mind, he thinks he's playing fair, he's consciously trying to clean up his game if only because he knows that Boudreau's not fucking around, has shown that he will bench him.
And he gets called anyway--on the second phantom stick penalty in as many games. He's made his bed and now he's got to lie in it, but if this is how things are going to go, it's going to be a long uphill climb to clean up that reputation, and if he stays this frustrated about it, I don't know if he'll necessarily see it as being worth it. If he's lazy with his stick, he'll get called on it--if he's consciously trying to be careful with his stick, he might get called on it anyway, which only adds to that reputation and gives referees more cause to call it the next time. If he's extra, extra careful, so that there can be absolutely zero doubt, like he was following that penalty from last night, his play becomes timid and overthought, and he's not very effective.
A lot has been made in the media of Semin's bad habits with his stick in the last week or so--and while I understand that Boudreau calling players out in the media has been part of the new Accountability Regime, it's a different situation for him to, say, call out Ovechkin and say "he needs to be playing better" than it is to call out Semin and say "he's always taking stick penalties, there will be consequences if he continues to do so."
The difference being that that second one is something that teams can key in on, and make part of a strategy. I will bet you anything that the Devils were told that if Semin's stick was within five feet of them, they needed to dive. Obviously not something that I can prove, but it would certainly be a smart strategy, considering that they know a. the referees will call it because of Semin's reputation, b. Semin might be benched because of it, which just makes it easier for them.
- Like Boudreau said after the game, there's not a lot more that can be done to hold him accountable--he's done his worst, and the awful part is that it looked like Semin was responding, had actually been making an effort before each of those two calls.
- But the bad calls lead to worse calls, and the reputation leads to an even worse reputation, and teams will see that embellishing around Semin will work. I don't know what the solution is.
- Score 60 goals. There's your solution. There's nothing that shuts people up more than scoring 60 goals. Plausible? Nah. But I'd rather see Semin respond to this with a chip on his shoulder than a sulk.