Now that the Habs have completed the sweep of the Lightning, I was poking at the Lightning game thread on Raw Charge. The overwhelming sentiment was that the refs were corrupt through the entire series and wanted more than anything for the only Canadian team in the postseason to advance. My immediate reaction was amusement since what I saw was hardly that.
I am not so arrogant to believe I am right and "they" must be wrong. I have always had a struggle when it comes to blaming refs, seeing a conspiracy against a team, whether it is the Habs or not. It feels like a weak out, but sometimes it just appears so obvious. I know many of the fine folks on EOTP agree.
What is interesting is during game 4 we had Chris Lee and the overriding concern before and during the game was how would he screw the Habs over this time. Chris Lee - at least looking at the Habs record when he refs - is no friend of Montreal. But is Chris Lee really bias against the Canadiens? Does he really look for opportunities to screw them over?
I admit I was absolutely convinced last night the Lightning would win. Down 3-1 I said I fully expected some quick goals, probably with penalties not being called and an OT shocker by the Lightning. Until Max ended it with 43 seconds left I remained convinced and, frankly, resigned to a game 5 in our future.
Of course, that winning goal came on a power play, a rare one in the third period. It was called on a rather ticky-tack play and much more egregious penalties had been committed throughout the game that were not whistled. It was a bit curious. It was a bit confusing. However, I did not think, "Hmm, maybe the refs are helping the Habs here" but instead wrote it up to yet another inexplicable call by NHL officials.
Think about it though. If Montreal had been called for that same penalty and Stamkos potted the game winner wouldn't many of us be saying there was a fix in? Wouldn't we be complaining about the refs "helping" the Lightning? I can easily understand how Lightning fans would see that weak call as corrupt and that bothers me.
It bothers me because I do not believe for one second it was corrupt. And, given I believe that, I also do not believe the refs were corrupt by ignorinig Stamkos punching Emelin square in the face or ignoring tackling Gallagher to the ice or calling off a goal the Lightning probably should have had back in game three.
I guarantee in the 2nd round there will be some unbelievable call against Montreal, probably leading to a game-changing momentum shift and/or goal and I - and a lot of you - will consider it as bias against our team. And if we jump over to our opponent's blog, we will find they are complaining about the refs too. It is a well-known fact that fans often blame the refs for their teams woes if they believe their team has played well enough to win...but struggle to do so.
So, I am going to try to remember a simple fact. NHL refs are not bias for or against any team. NHL refs are just rarely competent. I would say most calls on the ice are fair and valid, but there are so often (always?) one or two that make no sense within the context of a given game. Maybe the game is too fast now for refs on the ice to call a solid game night in and night out. Maybe some refs are just not as bright as others (I'm looking at you Tim Peel). I do not know the exact reason or if there even is an exact reason. All I do know is it is going to be hard not to slip into the Blame-The-Ref mode when the Bruins get a PP cause Desharnais touched Rask but Lucic gets nothing for sack tapping Gionta.
The problem of course is it is not much better to have incompetent refs than it would be to have corrupt refs. So, yeah, blame the refs when they deserve it. Just remember it is most likely buffoonery and not evil intent you are angry at.