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A Comedy of Zebras

The Canadiens and Devils played on Saturday night, but the officials apparently thought the game was about them.

New Jersey Devils v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images

The Montreal Canadiens and New Jersey Devils played a game of hockey last night. Unfortunately for everyone who bought a ticket or tuned in on television, the officiating crew decided to ensure that it was arguably the most difficult-to-watch game of hockey in recent memory.

I know, old Drizzy is one of the biggest Zebra bashers in the game, but this was a special case of inept officiating. It was quite the debacle, and I felt it necessary to make some noise about it.

The Habs really weren’t in the first half of the game. They were getting handled by a supposedly inferior team, and it was somewhat of a miracle that they entered the second period in a tie game. For the first 20-plus minutes, the officials were rather quiet.

They didn’t make a single penalty call for the first 30-plus minutes of game time. There were some opportunites to get involved, but nothing that would give cause for consternation. But once they decided to start putting people in the box, it felt like a competition of which penalty could be more ridiculous than the last.

If I took the time to dissect every penalty they called, you’d have to sit through about three thousand words, so I’ll just give a few highlights of their work on Saturday.

Brett Kulak was called for an absolutely insane checking-to-the-head penalty. Just look at this...

He literally just skated past Blake Coleman and brushed up against him a little bit. He’s definitely trying to go for a hit, but he completely misses his man, and somehow that was judged worthy of a penalty.

Max Domi was called for knocking a stick away from an opposing player in the third. You can’t do that, so even though he barely moved the stick, it isn’t a wild call to make. What is insane is the fact that he got an extra two minutes for nothing more than apparently smiling at the ref?

He may have said something that the cameras didn’t catch, as he did take responsibility after the game, but he’s been a boy scout so far this season. I find it incredibly hard to believe that he said anything worthy of an additional two minutes when his initial deuce was already tenuous at best. I’d need ice-level access to determine if the extra two was with merit, so it’s hard to say.

But it wasn’t just the Habs getting called for absurd reasons. For the final 30 minutes of the game, the Devils got their fair share of phantom calls to make up for the insane calls against the Habs. The officials seemed to have more interest in being seen than they did in doing their jobs properly. Even as a Habs fan, I sat wide-eyed looking at the calls against the Devils because I couldn’t figure out what they actually did wrong.

I complain about officials all the time, and usually my father is the one who tells me to shut up and enjoy the game. Last night, he was texting me wondering why they were intent on ruining the game. I usually wonder if it’s all just a product of my bias, but my dad coming to me with the complaint confirmed my suspicion.

Perhaps the weirdest moment of the night was when Phillip Danault seemed to have scored late in the third for what would have been a likely game-winner. He... Thrusted the puck over the goal line with his hip, and somehow the officials decided this was a kicking motion...

Perhaps I have no idea what a kicking motion is, but I know for a fact that if he pushed the puck in with that part of his body while standing, it would have counted. Let’s be honest, he humped the puck over the goal line. How exactly is that tantamount to a kicking motion?

This officiating crew evidently had no idea what they were doing. They should be beyond embarrassed at their work on the night. They ruined a perfectly good hockey game for everyone involved, and I don’t quite know how to even process this.

The Habs didn’t play well. That they got a point out of all this should be considered as a positive, but I can’t possibly sit here and celebrate a point when I watched the shit show that was the officiating last night. It was horrendous.

As a Habs fan, you have to take the point and be happy, but as a hockey fan, I’m struggling to understand how those dudes have jobs officiating the sport at the highest level.