I'll spell my colours out from the top: I'm no big fan of NHL officiating and how it is run.
I've long found it is handled vainly and arrogantly, is incredibly inconsistent, involves individual player and team agendas, controls certain games, and is flawed in it's conception from the get go. Admittedly, all of this is arguable to one extend or another of course, but you have seen examples of it or you are a hockey neophite.
The NHL displays the biggest bunch of clueless zebras of any sport. I get angry at them even when watching teams other than the ones I cheer for get shafted on a nightly basis. It is often as if the officials believe they are the spectacle.
The officiating in Carolina on Tuesday night was an embarassment to the league. The two referees, Frederick Lecuyer and Brad Meier, clearly were trying to prove some point as they let little to nothing go by.
The Canadiens players for their part, were no angels on the ice, and they offered up many infractions for the officials to choose from. Normally, in a highly spirited and contested game, officials will pick and choose what is called at a particular point in the game, letting the flow of play dictate it's outcome.
In this fiasco, they called every minor they saw, regardless of intent, zone, and crucialness to the play involved. At times, it seemed that they were intent on sending some message to the Canadiens players, one they were likely too confused too seize.
In the 11 minors called, over half were deserved and the rest were borderline things that usually earn a blind eye. I had to watch the game a second time, because I was intent on trying to see what I missed. I must have missed stuff the second time around as well.
The first call to D' Agostini early in the first was well behind the play and out of camera range. Both players were about tangle when the camera panned off. For some reason, whatever D' Agnostini did, was called interference. Yes, 60 feet behind the play. A minute and 49 seconds later, Kovalev goes for tripping while on the penalty kill. It was a borderline little stick tug that had me questioning whether a coincidental diving was to be attached to it. Kovalev was still in the box when Lapierre was called for a slash at the nine minute mark. The Hurricanes player had fallen and lay flat on the ice with his stick extended when Lapierre slashed it high on the shaft, in the vicinity of the puck. It was a judgement call at best, especially as Kovalev was still in the box. It led to Carolina's first goal.
At this point, the game was ten minutes old, and the Canadiens may have been able to roll all four lines once, having spent five minutes killing penalties, including back to back 5 on 3's.
The game settled some and gained some flow finally, when Tanguay was called for tripping with five minutes to go in the period. What really occured was Tanguay had control of the puck when he was hit and knocked off stride. As he fell, so did his check, and Tanguay's blade came down on the player's chest as he fell. There was an accidental high stick on Tanguay's part, but any tripping motion was inexistant. Only seconds after Tanguay emerged from the bin of sin, Hamrlik gets knicked for tripping, as he tried to retrieve a puck in an opponants skates. By this time, one figures some leniency would come into play, but not here. Carolina made it two zip seconds later.
After five calls in only twenty minutes, you can get a fair grasp on whether the officials are on their game or not by two different types of reactions. One, the Hurrican players were falling like limp kleenex at every subtle nudge. Two, every Canadiens on the ice starts pleading innocent when a whistle is blown, having no idea who the call is against, but feeling the wrath. It was a pitiful display.
Three of the five calls in the first had an ounce of legitimacy to them at best. Instead, every infraction was whistled.
The Canadiens meanwhile, were doing their best to keep pace, and seemed to be a bunch riled into a willful battle. The refs threw the Habs a bone early into the second, awarding them a dubious penalty shot when Brett Carson slashed Latendresse's stick while he was on a breakaway. The call should have been nothing more but two for slashing, but the Canadiens would gladly take a break at that point, and Latendresse made no mistake in unleashing a howitzer of a wrister to make a game of it.
A minute and a half later, Kovalev, while killing off an O'Byrne minor that was well earned, knotted the game with zinger off the faceoff circle. While O' Byrne was caged, Carolina went up by one.
With the game still close after all these shenanigans, this is usually the point where the refs back off on things and let the teams play. As O'Byrne hadn't grasped the gist of what was going on, the officials kept their eyes open, nabbing Latendresse for holding the stick.
Late in the period, the officials still seemed to have some point to prove, as they clamped down on Latendresse once more, calling him for tripping when he was really just battling for the puck at his feet. They then hammered the point home, calling Kovalev for the most incidental slash ever, with less than a second on the clock.
The Canadiens were good boys in the third period, as nothing they did seemed to draw a call, curiously enough.
Did the Canadiens deserve a better fate in this game? We'll never know.
One thing for certain, they are behaving in a manner on the ice that some officials aren't putting up with. They (or Carbonneau) need to reel in the discipline in games, or they will cement a reputation that will be hard to shake. It might already be too late in the case of some players.
I think teams need to almost start getting a book on the officials tendencies. A birdog for the zebras!