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Bottom Six Minutes: Why is Chris Lee allowed to work Habs games?

Why is he allowed to work NHL games at all, for that matter?

NHL: MAR 21 Islanders at Canadiens Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Three things are certain in life, they say: death, taxes, and Chris Lee officiating Montreal Canadiens games as if he wagered money against them. When I say “they” I am of course referring to myself, though I feel I am far from alone in the belief that Lee has spent the better part of his career operating as if he plays for whoever opposes the Habs on a given night.

He was at it again for their game against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night.

There were plenty of missed calls, but this was the most egregious. Lee is of course official number 28, and apparently felt that this cross-check to the face by Jon Merrill was not worthy of two minutes. While you can’t see whether or not he was looking at the play in my clip, you have to consider his track record as an official when it comes to plays in this area during games involving Montreal.

Don’t forget, this is the same official who literally pretended he didn’t see Nick Suzuki getting punched in the face. In a playoff game.

His alleged bias against the Canadiens is well documented. A reddit user did some digging two years ago, and found that the Canadiens experience a 13% bump in PIMs per game when he’s working. Their win percentage over 100 games decreased by 8.22% while Lee was on the ice.

According to Scouting the Refs, over the last three seasons, the Habs have a record of 2-5 with Lee on the call, while the Wild have gone 15-4. The Canadiens took 45 minutes worth of penalties on Tuesday, while the Wild took just 21, in a game where the Wild held a lead for the lion’s share of the game. I’m generally reticent to suggest outright bias from the officials against the Canadiens, but with Lee it seems blatantly obvious.

All this aside, I don’t feel that Lee alone was what cost the Canadiens a win against Minnesota — their inability to generate high-danger scoring chances was a bigger problem than the officiating. In the highly unlikely event that he called a perfect game, they could absolutely have lost that game anyways.

But that isn’t the point. Losing is fine for the Habs — particularly with the strength of the draft crop the next lottery will avail — but they deserve a fair shake, and they don’t get that from him. They never have, and barring a Tim Peel-esque confession on a hot mic, they’ll likely have to continue living with it a few times per year.

Now I’ll acquiesce to the distinct possibility that Lee is not biased against the Canadiens, but just a bad official. In that case, well, maybe he’s better suited as a fake NHL insider on Twitter.

BONUS HIGHLIGHT TIME!

You only get one for this game, but it should provoke some discussion. I felt this was clearly a high stick, but the officials went another way with their call.

Click the play button below to listen to your full Bottom Six Minutes podcast, also available on your preferred listening platform. We’ll return with another episode following Thursday night’s game against the Winnipeg Jets.