Three straight games, three straight times I find myself decrying the officiating in this series. It feels overdone at this point, but I can assure you that I intend to stop doing it the moment that I see a properly officiated game. The moment they stop giving me something to talk about.
That moment simply has not come.
The Montreal Canadiens lost their opportunity to take a 3-1 series lead over the Vegas Golden Knights in overtime. Two nights after they won a game they probably didn’t deserve to, the exact opposite happened to them. That’s hockey, and the Habs will have to regroup to try and take one on the road.
The NHL inexplicably allowed the same two refs, Dan O’Rourke and Chris Lee, to officiate game 4 despite their brutal performance in game 3. They would end up explaining that it was due to travel limitations surrounding COVID, but that was cold comfort for a Montreal team that has watched their opponents get roughly triple their power play time on ice in this series.
Game 4 was not nearly as one-sided — a total of four penalty minutes were assessed to each team — but it was quite the scene of missed calls. I should note that as many calls were missed against the Tricolore as were against the Knights, and the officials were lucky the game didn’t devolve into violence as a result of their willful ignorance of penalties.
Perhaps the best example came from the sequence between Shea Weber and Tomas Nosek:
This is most certainly a penalty pic.twitter.com/iEyUN6Wn1N— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) June 21, 2021
They almost got some violence here. Nosek gets away with a clear boarding penalty against Weber, who retaliates with a pretty hefty cross check that also goes uncalled. Eventually they were both assessed unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for almost fighting, but there’s two blatant missed calls on that sequence of many on the night for both teams.
I’ll try to put myself in a zebra jersey here. If I missed the boarding or decided not to call it, I suppose I have to ignore the cross check because it would be pretty unfair to call that after missing the board. If I simply make the first correct call at the first opportunity, I save myself from that entire situation.
Alas, the overall officiating on the night wasn’t as one-sided as we’ve seen, so it could be construed as a positive step despite the many missed calls. At least the missed calls went both ways.
But then we have this from Chris Lee...
This is just clear, undeniable negligence. Nick Suzuki is punched in the face by Brayden McNabb directly in front of Lee. He looks like he’s almost putting his arm up to make a call, but turns his head away as if to say “I didn’t see that,” and keeps the whistle away.
Sure, they’re pushing each other, but only one throws a punch. This should have easily been two minutes to McNabb, so either Chris Lee holds malicious bias against the Montreal Canadiens, or he’s just that bad at officiating. Either way, he can’t possibly be allowed to ref another Habs game, especially one of the playoff variety.
Frankly, this is a man who should no longer be allowed to officiate NHL games, period. You cannot trot someone out there night after night when such video evidence of his incompetence exists. If this isn’t the last time we’ll see Lee in these playoffs, I don’t know what it will take for the league to remove him from the equation.
At the very least, the Canadiens can focus on Game 5 in Vegas knowing he won’t be suiting up for that one.