I’d like to preface this article by saying that I have no problem with the Montreal Canadiens losing to the Dallas Stars last night. You certainly can’t win them all, and the 2021-22 Habs can’t even expect to win most. It was an entertaining game in a season where entertainment has been scarce for Habs fans, and that is at least something to be happy about.
With that out of the way, I’d like to discuss the absolutely horrendous officiating that seemed intent on ruining that great game.
I don’t want to allege bias against the Canadiens — we know they have bias against individual players, but other teams have seen their share of ref jobs — just that the officiating is a joke, and last night’s game was a prime example. I present to you: Exhibit A for your viewing pleasure, a missed high stick on Artturi Lehkonen.
Wake up refs. Absolute joke officiating in this game.— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) March 18, 2022
Another non-call high stick. Yet seconds later they get Edmundson for tripping. pic.twitter.com/M6P9yvxVWs
I believe that is Kelly Sutherland you can see in the background staring at the infraction but refusing to call it. This doesn’t exonerate Mitch Dunning — the other one wearing the bands — as there was another missed high stick earlier in the game at the other end. Exhibit B, if it pleases the court:
Should have been a 5 on 3 for the #Habs there. Not sure how this doesn't get called two feet from the net.— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) March 17, 2022
NHL refs, best in sports, right? pic.twitter.com/wWwO72lMPG
Amazing that neither of these high sticks were worthy of two minutes, but Laurent Dauphin sure earned a skate to the cachot for his egregious act. Exhibit C:
This happens about 800 times a game, so if it is interference we should never see 5 on 5 play.— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) March 17, 2022
Ridiculously soft call. pic.twitter.com/nhgNd7B4AW
I mean it when I say that this, if called consistently as a standard interference penalty, would almost eliminate five-on-five play. It happens so often that you would need more officials just to catch it happening.
Exhibits D and E are fun because they happened very close together. You first have Ryan Suter committing far more robust interference on Laurent Dauphin in front of his own net.
So this was not interference... pic.twitter.com/niBrNlo1EL— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) March 18, 2022
Uncalled, yet just over a minute later they did call Joel Armia for this.
But this was interference... pic.twitter.com/TkSs5qSlGE— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) March 18, 2022
To be clear, both of these are penalties, but why is only one called? Again, I make no allegations of specific bias against the Canadiens, I think this overall debacle is a case of them just trying to even up the game sheet, which is beyond absurd. For anyone about to suggest this is a conspiracy theory, keep in mind they’ve admitted to doing this.
Officials do not exist for the purpose of officiating the score, or making sure both teams get a similar amount of penalties. They exist to enforce the rules of the game. When you willfully ignore clear penalties or call soft ones just to even things up, it is a dereliction of duty. If team A commits more infractions than team B, team A should be sitting in the box more. End of story.
But we know that’s not how they do it. To make matters worse, the league punishes players and coaches more for speaking out about bad calls than they do the officials who make them. Funny, given that the league refuses to make officials available to the media so they could face even a fraction of the scrutiny that players do.
But I digress, as there is one final complaint without which any indictment of NHL officiating would be incomplete. Exhibit F, aptly named to match the grade I’d give Thursday night’s crew:
Let it be known that lifting a goaltender's stick/blocker is not goaltender interference, apparently. pic.twitter.com/TRRL3C0VU9— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) March 18, 2022
This is John Klingberg’s overtime game-winner, and that is Tyler Seguin in front of the net lifting Jake Allen’s stick and blocker as the puck goes in. If this is not goaltender interference, it seems like a foolproof strategy to score more goals, as it suggests you can hold a goaltender’s equipment in a position that makes it harder or impossible for them to make a save.
#Habs Jake Allen on the #Stars OT winning goal: "Seguin is behind me in the goal crease, doesn't let me turn my blocker...that's why the puck goes through the 7-hole so I'm not really sure what else is goalie interference..."— Priyanta Emrith (@HabsInHighHeels) March 18, 2022
I don’t know what goaltender interference is anymore, neither does Jake Allen, and frankly, I don’t think the NHL does. You could have identical plays in two separate games, get two different calls on the ice, and two different results on review. How can a coach ever confidently challenge for goaltender interference when the calls on the ice, and on review, have zero semblance of consistency?
There is no standard, precedent is worth less than Russian Rubles, and most NHL fans wouldn’t even be surprised if the league one day admitted their situation room is just a guy flipping coins. It is an embarrassment. Of course, expanding the league to Mexico is probably higher on Gary Bettman’s priority list than getting this process right.
#Habs Jake Allen: "I think one of the referees said it was goalie interference and then the League turned it over - I don't know. I don't know the whole deal but that one I'm a little disappointed with."— Priyanta Emrith (@HabsInHighHeels) March 18, 2022
Now this last quote just muddies the waters even further. If the ref on the ice felt it was interference, why wasn’t it called that way on the ice? If it was, then the review would have been looking for conclusive evidence that there wasn’t interference, and may have sided with said call. A comedy of errors, and one that leaves a goaltender wondering how his blocker is allowed to be held out of position while a puck goes past him to end the game.
Again, I pray for the day that the people officiating these games will be put in front of the media. Maybe if the people responsible for making these clearly ridiculous calls had to answer for them, we’d see a little more consistency.
Unfortunately, accountability is something the league only demands from the players, and even then, only when they feel like demanding it.
Eh ben... Click the play button below to listen to your full Bottom Six Minutes, also available on your podcast platform of choice. We’ll be back again for this Saturday’s game against the Ottawa Senators.