I’d like to kick this off by giving a stick tap to EOTP user HabinBurlington for reigniting my outrage at a certain penalty call from Saturday night’s game. I focused the Bottom Six Minutes primarily on offside reviews yesterday, but that one call made against the Montreal Canadiens was still grinding my gears well into my Sunday afternoon.
Most of you will have seen this by now, and of course the asinine call went against Brendan Gallagher.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but Ryan shouldn't have his stick on the ice if he's on the bench right?— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 6, 2022
How is this a penalty on Brendan Gallagher? pic.twitter.com/WsGrsqrx0L
Not that it matters, but I believe that is Kailer Yamamoto and not Derek Ryan — the NHL website notes the infraction as being committed against the former — dangling his stick over the boards from the bench. He’s doing this during the play, and Gallagher tosses it out of his way, which apparently warranted two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct.
NHL rule 56.2 states: “A minor penalty shall be imposed on any identifiable player on the players’ bench or penalty bench who, by means of his stick or his body, interferes with the movements of the puck or any opponent on the ice during the progress of the play.” Despite this, the only call here was somehow the one against Gallagher.
Gallagher isn’t necessarily interfered with by this stick, but it is in his way, so he’s arguably well within his right to move it. To play devil’s advocate, let’s say the unsportsmanlike penalty is warranted, how do you not also call Yamamoto when his stick has absolutely no business being there in the first place?
There are probably two plausible answers to that question. The first is
score game management, which is a well known scourge on NHL officiating. Montreal had a 3-2 lead at the time of the penalty, so their natural inclination is to try and even up the game by penalizing Montreal. Artturi Lehkonen ended up scoring short-handed to extend Montreal’s lead, so the Edmonton Oilers missed the memo if that was indeed the aim.
The second, and perhaps more likely answer is that we know that NHL officials have a hit list, and that Brendan Gallagher is on it. They aren’t impartial when it comes to him, and it looks like yet another manifestation of their internal bias. It is wildly unprofessional, happens with regularity, and this is but one egregious example.
I’d love to see officials be put in front of the media after games so they’d have to answer for calls like this. They might do away with their hit list if they actually had to face scrutiny for such blatantly biased calls. A pipe dream, I know, since the league won’t even stop fining players and coaches for daring to point them out during their own availabilities.
Gallagher is still on that hit list, and unless the NHL fires their entire roster of Zebras to start fresh, he probably always will be.