Maybe the explanation for Alex Burrows' histrionics and for Maxim Lapierre's theatrics is as a simple as this: A fable that so many of us listened to and absorbed lessons from - The Boy Who Cried Wolf - wasn't part of their school curriculum.
Or it slipped through the cracks of their learning in favour of other children's stories. Because if they did know the story, they would have identified themselves as its co-protagonists during Friday night's fifth game of the Stanley Cup final, a 1-0 victory for their Vancouver Canucks' team.
Lapierre, who scored the game-winning goal, appeared mortally wounded earlier in the game, when Boston Bruins' defenceman Zdeno Chara gently nudged the blade of his stick into Lapierre's abdominal region. As Lapierre doubled over, Chara looked on in disgust and the refereeing pair of Stephen Walkom and Dan O'Rourke solemnly stared at both the offenders and resolutely called nothing.
Burrows had a much tougher time of it because he was legitimately being fouled all night - and couldn't draw a call if his life depended on it. It was as if all the embellishments - in this series, past series, all year long, since he arrived in the NHL - had come home to roost.
Yes, this was open season on Alex and even if a referee would never acknowledge that such a thing can happen, a message was clearly being delivered. Cease and desist, or risk further erosion of the refereeing standard in what's left of these 2011 playoffs.
Burrows may have even absorbed the lesson - or more probably, was under strict instructions to say nothing inflammatory about the refereeing post-game Friday, even if he had a strong case to argue. Burrows answered questions for wave after wave of reporters, and it was all a riff on the same basic theme: Referees have a difficult job. They can't see everything. They can't call everything. Burrows offered up an anecdote from his own past, noting that when he'd refereed youth soccer, with virtually no one watching, he felt pressure.
On Saturday, it was more of the same. Prior to their departure for Game 6 in Boston, amid a loud sendoff at Vancouver International Airport, Burrows was specifically asked if his tendency to embellish made it hard to get a call.
"It doesn't matter," he answered. "My focus is on the game. That's all."
It was a smart, if slightly disingenuous answer, and made you think that Burrows may be a candidate for the Screen Actors Guild after all - once his career ends. Maybe it'll even earn him a call now and again as the series shifts to Boston for Monday's sixth game, with the Canucks needing only a single victory to earn the first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history.
The Canucks had the option of staying home for an extra day, since this is a hockey-free weekend across Canada and the United States, but elected to fly out mid-morning Saturday to give themselves an extra day to acclimate to the three-hour time change.
Coach Alain Vigneault and a handful of players spoke with reporters prior to departure, with everybody on their best behaviour, knowing they have a second chance to win, if things go badly in Game 6. And that will be the test - to be better in Boston than they were in the two previous games, in which they were outscored 12-1 and widely outplayed after decent opening periods. Vigneault predicted it wouldn't be difficult to all to keep the emotions under check, knowing how close they were to the ultimate prize.
"I think we've got a very mature group, a group that set out at the beginning of training camp to win the Stanley Cup," said Vigneault. "We weren't shy about talking about what our goals were. Now we've got an opportunity on Monday to achieve that goal. Until that's done, everybody's real focused on the task at hand."
The Canucks have just six goals in five games in this series and team captain Henrik Sedin, the reigning NHL MVP, has zero points, with brother Daniel just two. That can be a double-edged sword because eventually, the Sedins will have to hit the score board. The hallmark of their careers these past few years has been a remarkable consistency - rarely do they go this long without a point. That's how you win consecutive scoring championships, first one twin, then the other.
And at this point of the campaign, the win's the thing for the Sedins and all the rest of the Canucks. How they achieve it is moot.
"Whatever it takes to win," is how goaltender Roberto Luongo put it. "Whether it's 1-0 or 8-1, a win is a win and a loss is a loss. So right now, we're up 3-2 and we have a good opportunity come Monday night. That's what we're going to focus our attention on."