By NHL standards, Dan O’Halloran and Mike Leggo officiated a good game last night. Like Colin Campbell’s disciplinary decisions this offseason, the officiating was horribly inconsistent. If Colin Campbell is the ringleader of NHL justice, then his referees have a done a good job of following him.
Considering the importance of last night’s game, it was one of the worst officiated games I’ve ever seen. From my point of view, it seemed like Dan O. and Leggo didn’t know how they wanted to call the game. At times, they would let a lot of things go; at others, no. They didn’t have a standard, and watching the game, I had no idea when a penalty was a penalty and when it wasn’t.
Alex Edler and Ryan Kesler were hammered with late hits and there were no calls. Rick Rypien hit Ben Eager against the boards and Ryp received a minor; the Hawks scored on the ensuing powerplay. Kesler was high-sticked and Roberto Luongo was whacked with a stick and there were no calls. Meanwhile, Shane O’Brien had a ticky-tack hook called on him; the Hawks scored the winning goal afterwards.
I’m not blaming the Canucks’ loss on the officiating, but certainly, the lousy officiating didn’t help. To be fair, Rypien and O’Brien probably deserved their penalties; but just as much, the Blackhawks deserved to be called on theirs too. As fans of the game, what we look for is consistency and there was none of that last night.
But then again, this is the NHL where consistency – especially in disciplinary-type incidents – doesn’t seem to be part of the vocabulary. Just in this year’s playoffs, we’ve seen different consequences for similar actions. Carcillo and Cammalleri laid out similar head shots off the faceoff, but only Carcillo was suspended. Lucic and Backes last out similar head shots during a scrum, but only Lucic was suspended. Brashear and Eager took out opponents with similar late hit to the head, but only Brashear was suspended. Scott Walker sucker punched Aaron Ward, a suspensionable offense according to the league’s own rules, but the league then turned around and rescinded the suspension.
At times, it almost seems like Colin Campbell and his crew spin the wheel to decide what punishment to give. Last night was no different. I’m not saying the Canucks would have won otherwise – I’ve already admitted the Blackhawks were the better team in this series – but they at least deserved a fairer chance.