THE LAST PENALTY dished out Saturday night in the Flyers' horrendous, penalty-filled, 4-0 loss in St. Louis was "abuse of officials" to the Blues.

I can imagine what was being yelled from the Blues' bench and frankly don't understand why there is not more of those penalties.

Now, I'm not advocating that players and coaches start abusing officials and acting like children - bad for the game, bad example for youngsters - but I am really sick of watching NHL hockey right now. There were 27 total penalties called in that game. From the opening minutes, literally, to the last, someone was on the way to the penalty box, or in Riley Cote's case, the locker room.

It was a special-teams festival. It would be one thing if this was just one game in a dozen, but this kind of nonsense is happening all the time - and not just to the Flyers, as those who watch them play every night suspect.

Granted, the Flyers-Blues game was over the top, but in the 12 games played Saturday night, there were a total of 139 penalties called.

Does anyone but me think that this is out of hand or believe that referees today are trying to be a bigger part of the game than they should be? I've been on this rant before, especially after the lockout when the obstruction rules went into play. It was crazy in the first few months and then seemed to settle down.

Now it seems crazy again, and some of these calls - sorry, make that most - are really nitpicking, borderline BS. There was one penalty called in the All-Star Game last week, in the overtime session. It was the first one in an All-Star Game since 2000.

Then, in the first game after the break for the Flyers, against the Panthers, Kimmo Timonen goes to the net and backs into a player who falls dramatically to the ice - and up goes a zebra arm and an even-strength, tying goal is waved off.

This game is supposed to be decided by five-on-five play. Special teams are a huge part of it, but they should not be the determining factor in every single one. The league has to start looking at this again and find a way to rein it back in.

My wish list: Redefine what is an obstruction call. A stick parallel to the ice that touches another player should not be automatic hooking. To me, hooking is using the stick to pull the player, or parts of a player's body, from behind. It's a lazy play and deserves to be called, when that is what actually happens.

And how about slashing? These new fiberglass, incredibly expensive sticks (that's a gripe session for another day) break on faceoffs. When one player stick-checks another and the stick breaks, that should not, read not, be a penalty. It wouldn't have been when the sticks were made of wood.

Go back to three officials: There are too many refs in the game and on the ice. Each team has five skaters and a goalie. The officials have four, two linesmen and two refs. That's too many by at least one. And they all seem to think it is important to get involved. Calls are made from way behind the action and then, to make it worse, they get in the way - a lot.

Now I know, I know, it's a tough job, but it's the job they choose to do. They were not marched out onto the ice at gunpoint, so please forget the sympathy factor. There are far too many calls being made in the game and it is ruining it for me.

Dear Mr. Bettman, please do something about this.

Flyers follies

Now, back to the Flyers. As much as

John Stevens

is trying to avoid the pitfalls of last season, the Flyers are edging back there, mainly due to inconsistent play and execution, from the goalies on down. Saturday night they were handed a 2-minute, five-on-three advantage against one of the weaker teams in the league and couldn't find the net. They kept blasting away, missing the net, and rimming it around and out.

Worse, St. Louis had two guys in the box who jumped out behind the play when the penalty expired, and scored. What a way to start a game. The Flyers results' since Dec. 26 look like this - L L W W L L W W L L W W L W L. Remind anyone of 2007-08, by chance?

Stevens usually gives his team a full day off after a back-to-back. But the Flyers have been dealing with the flu - both Randy Jones and Braydon Coburn missed Saturday night's game. Stevens has given them 2 days off, yesterday and today, and I'll bet that has a lot to do with it. It also might have to do with the win-loss situation.

Snap shots

The

Boston Globe

is reporting that the Flyers may want to move

Glen Metropolit

and

Andrew Alberts,

both of whom played for the Bruins before being traded here. I've heard some about Metropolit, but not Andrews, who is playing well and getting better . . . One of the most sought-after trade-deadline commodities was supposed to be

Jay Bouwmeester.

Florida is surging and could make the playoffs, and that probably will change things, especially since coach

Peter DeBoer

was recently quoted as saying, "I may be a little biased, but I think he's one of the top five defensemen in the world" . . . A teenage volunteer was booted from his job at General Motors Place in Vancouver for breaking the rules and talking to a celebrity. The kid deserved his fate, but only because he was talking with

Don Cherry.

Who would get fired over talking to Cherry? . . . Can't believe there was actually a report of Devils coach

Brent Sutter

saying that

Martin Brodeur

would have to earn his job back when he heals from the biceps tear that has sidelined him for almost all of this season.

Scott Clemmensen

has been very good and kept New Jersey from floundering in Brodeur's absence - but come on? *

Send e-mail to morane@phillynews.com