Gary Bettman continues taking heat for his league getting embarrassed on a national stage, with nine players getting suspended so far in these playoffs. Some of it is deserved, some not, but the fact remains the dirty play has taken on horrible level that is making hockey look nothing like a goon sport to the casual observer.

And with the NHL being quite obviously the fourth major sports league, bringing in casual observers is what Bettman needs to get his NHL more eyes that stay focused on the product rather than veering off after the pointless fights end.

Bettman spoke at an Associated Press Sports Editors meeting on Friday, standing by Brendan Shanahan and his rulings to this point – including the the three-game smackdown laid on Andrew Shaw and the non-suspension of Shea Weber.

While Bettman did make a good point — “For everybody who says (a certain suspension is) too much, there are people who say it’s too little. For everybody who doesn’t like a particular judgment, they say they’re being inconsistent.” – he also didn’t do himself any favors by avoiding taking some of the drama out of the situations by at least seeing another point of view.

“Everybody will have a different view,” Bettman said. “In Vancouver, they probably thought Bitz was being picked on and got suspended for too much. In Chicago, everybody felt that Shaw shouldn’t have been suspended at all because Smith was faking. Not the case.”

Maybe Mike Smith genuinely was injured, but I’ve never seen anyone recover from getting shot in the face that quickly. He sure hasn’t seemed to lose a step, carrying the Coyotes to a 3-1 series lead over the ‘Hawks heading into Saturday’s Game 5.

Torres decision coming Saturday

Bettman also touched on the Raffi Torres hit that kept Marian Hossa out of Game 4 and prevented him from traveling to Phoenix for Game 5.

“Most people who have observed it think it should’ve been a penalty,” Bettman said.

That statement right there means that Torres deserves a lengthy suspension – one that won’t be handed down until tomorrow after Shanahan met with Torres on Friday. Does Bettman still stick by Shanahan if the suspension comes back extremely light? We’ll see what the ruling brings.

It seems most around the media see a 10-game suspension worthy of the awful, deliberate hit. I’ll jump on that bandwagon.

Blackhawks ‘talked about’ starting Ray Emery over Corey Crawford for Game 5

First, let me state my opinion on this quickly: To honestly believe Crawford letting two pretty soft goals go past him in the overtime periods of Game 3 and Game 4 is the main reason the ‘Hawks are down 3-1 is extremely short-sighted. Yes, Crawford should have made each of those saves, and the obvious thought is, “They lost because he gave up those goals in overtime!”

Correct. But does that mean the Blackhawks would’ve ended up winning those games later in the OT? Absolutely not. To say those two non-saves are the reason the ‘Hawks are down 3-1 is simply not right. I’ve been reading this on social media and hearing the water-cooler talk at the office about this all day. There’s plenty more crap the ‘Hawks have done wrong other than goaltending that can be blamed for reasons for this current hole.

Are we shocked that Smith is outplaying Crawford in this series? We all knew coming in that Phoenix had the better goaltending. The reason most of us thought the ‘Hawks would win this series in five or six games was because the Blackhawks have more weapons on both offense and defense to overcome the goaltending difference.

Since the ‘Hawks haven’t been noticeably better in any area through the first four games, the ‘Hawks are on the brink of elimination. They haven’t been outplayed badly either, but that’s not the point. The ‘Hawks needed to capitalize on their more talented forwards to pressure Smith to make tough saves on quality chances. They can outshoot the Coyotes all they want, but if those shots are from bad angles with no net presence, Smith isn’t being challenged much, is he?

Phoenix has put pressure on Crawford, which include two breakaways in Game 4 – one coming on the game-winner. Now, the Blackhawks are considering going to Emery for Game 5. While I’m not completely opposed to the move, I’m not going to sit here with a straight face and write that Crawford is the only reason the Blackhawks are down 3-1.

See you at the bar for Game 5, with hopes of writing about a Game 6 later.