There are certainties in life. Death, taxes, and the NHL having a bigger problem with officiating being criticized than they do with the valid reasons for which it is being criticized.
It’s why players and coaches are often reticent about their thoughts concerning the quality — or lack thereof — when it comes to the officiating of their games. Should they speak out, they’re far more likely to be fined than they are to prompt any sort of accountability on the part of the officials they criticize. A futile effort that serves only to separate them from several thousand dollars. Case in point:
“They were clean last night… they were really clean” - Ducharme (avec un 1/2 sourire sourcils froncés) sur Vegas quand questionné sur le travail des arbitres. Je n’arrive pas à me décider si je pense que c’est du sarcasme ou non…— Marc-André Perreault (@MA_PerreaultTVA) June 17, 2021
Luckily, I am not employed or overseen by the NHL. I can say what I like about their poor officiating without concern for retribution against my finances. I can say that last night’s officiating was blatantly one-sided.
Two penalties were called in Game 2 between the Montreal Canadiens and Vegas Golden Knights. Both were against Montreal, and I will acquiesce to both of them being fair penalties to call. Jeff Petry was called for tripping when the appropriate call would have been interference, but no need to split hairs — two minutes was the rightful conclusion to that event.
The problem isn’t Montreal taking two penalties, it’s the officials refusing to call anything on Vegas, presumably due to the score of the game. It was “game management” at it’s finest — since Montreal took a two-goal lead in the first, they must expect that calls won’t go their way from that point.
I frankly don’t like the term “game management” at all, since for me it denotes managing the level of violence. It’s score management. The officials are trying to keep the game close by refusing to give any power play opportunities to the leading team.
I’ll provide just two examples, since they were the most egregious of the night. Here’s exhibit A.
That’s definitely a hold, and perhaps a bit of a slew foot. It’s absolutely a penalty either way, but since Montreal had a two-goal advantage at that point, I suppose it must absolutely be tolerated. It was quite similar to what Joel Armia was rightfully called for in the second period, the only difference being that he did it as a member of the leading team.
How about in the dying minutes — this time with the Habs leading by just one goal — that also was apparently a clean play. Exhibit B.
Take your pick between cross-checking or boarding, this is a penalty. It’s a dangerous play, and Joel Edmundson was slow to get up afterwards. Allowing this type of play sends a message that it’s okay to do this as long as you’re down on the scoreboard. If you really want to exert some game management in terms of violence, this is something you have to call or you’re going to see it again.
I’d venture to guess that both of these examples draw calls if the score was tied or Montreal was down. That shouldn’t be the case. Being down on the scoreboard shouldn’t provide carte blanche to commit infractions that would otherwise be called. It isn’t their job to ensure that the game stays close, it’s their job to enforce the rules.
Of course, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the officials really don’t think either of those plays are penalties at any point in a game. If that’s the case, we have a whole different problem on our hands, because I can’t see how anyone defends either of these plays as being clean.
Alas, the Tricolore still managed to win the game. Solid penalty killing negated the two calls against, and they didn’t need power plays to score enough for the win. Still, they can hope for a little more balance from the officials when the series turns to Montreal on Friday.
The only thing they can’t do, of course, is publicly ask for it.