I’m not one to believe in conspiracy theories, though I have to admit Tony Gallagher’s piece in the Vancouver Province this morning made me think a bit about them. Because the Canucks often seem to get the short end of the NHL officials’ stick, I can’t help but feel that, maybe, there’s some validity to what Tony is saying.
Then Saturday night the Canucks jump to a 2-0 lead and appear to be all over the Kings threatening to make short work of a market some important people in the league would love to come back to hockey after eight years of missing the playoffs and an eternity since Wayne Gretzky made the sport pop in the second largest market in North America.
Suddenly, a couple of questionable calls, one to Andrew Alberts for apparently tripping Dustin Brown and then a hold on Pavol Demitra, when it’s abundantly obvious to most Canuck fans that the Slovak who shone so brightly at the Olympics is having trouble holding on to anything. Nothing too outrageous, but the team with all the momentum and threatening to finish this series quickly suddenly runs into a couple of questionable ones.
Third period in a 2-2 tie, another Alberts penalty when Wayne Simmonds cut into the middle generating what seems like the first stick foul called in the series although somehow the stick which stuck in Henrik Sedin’s visor was missed in Game 1.
Henrik appears to win a third-period race to prevent an icing but the refs don’t see it that way. Ryan Smyth’s high stick in overtime and no call? Just a follow-through? Good thing the overtime penalty given to L.A. to give them four out of their five goals scored in this series on the power play wasn’t contested by the Canucks.
I’m not sure I’m ready to subscribe to Tony’s conspiracy theory, though at the very least, I do believe that the NHL officials need to call the games more consistently. Too often, they miss calls and then call make-up ones. Sometimes, the bad calls are inconsequential. At worst, they directly affect the results of playoff games, which is exactly what happened last night.
The Canucks lost the game in OT last night after they took a 2-minute minor for having too many men on the ice and the Kings scored on the ensuing powerplay.
But what about that penalty? Here’s what Alain Vigneault had to say after the game (via Jason Botchford, Vancouver Province):
“The rule is the player coming on the ice can not play the puck,” Vigneault said. “Well, that puck touched one of our players. It touched Kevin Bieska coming off the ice because he was cut. You got two referees with red stripes on their sweaters. They should make the call if they think it’s a penalty, not the linesman.”
TSN also talked about it on their panel tonight:
To be fair, this game probably wouldn’t even have gone to OT if Aaron Rome was healthy enough to banish Andrew Alberts back to the press box. (The Kings had 9:45 minutes – almost an entire half of a period – of powerplay time in regulation.) That said, it doesn’t absolve the officials from making a costly, bad call at the most crucial time of the game.
[update: 04/18/2010, 10:00 PM]
Don Cherry also weighed in on this on tonight’s HNIC Coach’s Corner. Click here for the video – he starts talking about the blown call at the 4:45 mark.