Written by lyricist Sammy Cahn in 1945, "Let It Snow" has become a classic Christmas song performed by numerous recording artists throughout the course of music history.
And yet on May 2nd, a date wedged in between the tail end of spring and the coming of summer, that particular tune seems to be resonating in the heads of both the Detroit Red Wings and the San Jose Sharks.
During the first two games of this Conference Semifinals matchup, Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard has had more snow in his face than Rick James at Studio 54 in the early 80's. With every stoppage resulting in a San Jose Shark driving hard to the net only to put on the brakes and send ice chips into Howard's face, post-whistle scrums have become the norm between two teams who aren't particularly known for those types of festivities.
The snow showers haven't affected Howard's ability to stop pucks of course-- he has been brilliant thus far, posting a 1.90 GAA and .952 SV%. But what hasn't showed up on the score sheet is his temperament, and that of his teammates, following a snow shower. Howard has been decidedly active around his crease, giving shots to various body parts of San Jose players invading his space. His teammates have gradually become much more defensive of him following stoppages as well, with the usually even-keel Wings beginning to get more and more involved after the whistle has blown.
Following game two Wings Head Coach Mike Babcock didn't bite on a question that addressed this subject-- after all, he has been down this Western Canadian road before.
"This is what I've found over the years. Every time I make a comment about any of this stuff it just comes back to bite me in the butt," Babcock said with a smirk on his face. "But I think that's a really good question."
The emphasis at the end of his statement, which happened to be his last of the night, made it clear to those of us in attendance that his team had taken exception with San Jose's willingness to shower his goaltender.
And Babcock wasn't the first to imply that something should be done about it.
TSN insider Darren Dreger, who writes a daily column called The Dreger Report that utilizes his expansive League sources to ruminate about policy and topical subjects, said that enough was enough when it came to San Jose's use of snow showers.
"How many snow showers must Howard endure before the Red Wings respond, or a penalty is called?," Dreger said via Twitter.
The question of whether or not snow showers can be considered a penalty is an interesting one-- while there is nothing that explicitly prohibits the action in the 2010-2011 NHL Rulebook, Rule 75 (which covers unsportsmanlike conduct) is most definitely applicable here. Penalties for snow showers have been given in the past under this rule, and with some San Jose players taking paths to the net that may not be considered the norm for these types of situations, the amount of steam this subject has picked up over the last twenty four hours could put a spotlight on San Jose.
Here is what Rule 75 states (emphasis mine):
75.1 Unsportsmanlike Conduct– Players and non-playing Club personnel are responsible for their conduct at all times and must endeavor to prevent disorderly conduct before, during or after the game, on or off the ice and any place in the rink. The Referees may assess penalties to any of the above team personnel for failure to do so.
75.2 Minor Penalty-- A minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct shall be assessed under this rule for the following infractions:
(ii) Any player who is guilty of unsportsmanlike conduct including, but not limited to hair-pulling, biting, grabbing hold of a face mask, etc. If warranted, and specifically when injury results, the referee may apply Rule 21-- match penalties.
>> 2010-2011 NHL Rulebook
Again-- considering the amount of attention this subject has been given already, I wouldn't be surprised if the officials speak with the Sharks before the game and let them know what is going to be expected of them when it comes to snow showers. The home crowd at Joe Louis Arena won't help San Jose's case, and considering unsportsmanlike penalties are relevant punishments for excessive and malicious snow showers, one would have to assume the locker room will discuss it as well.
This isn't the first time this subject has come under scrutiny for San Jose, either. During game one of last year's postseason series against the Wings, Joe Thornton abruptly stopped in front of the net and sent a near tidal wave of ice on top of Jimmy Howard. Detroit took exception to it then, and as we have heard in this series, they're taking exception to it now.
But as Head Coach Todd McLellan explained, he wants his players going hard to the net provided they're doing it with a purpose other than turning the event into a sideshow.
"I have no time for gimmicks and that type of crap. If our players are doing that [intentionally], they’re going to hear from me first," McLellan said emphatically. "But they’re going to hear from me even more when they don’t go to the net and stop on a loose puck. If you go back and look at them the pucks are bobbling around."
"They know it’s not a circus and it’s not about a clown show. We want them going to the blue paint just like the other team is."