Bottom Six Minutes: Farcical officiating causes game to get out of hand

An absolute clown show from the officials led to a violent third period on Thursday night.

The Montreal Canadiens lost 6-2 to the Florida Panthers on Thursday night at the Bell Centre. It was a very testy affair, one that saw the game get out of hand a little in the third period as a result. The most unfortunate part about the game getting out of hand as it did, was that it could easily have been avoided.

I’ve been happy to write about good officiating several times recently, but of course, nothing lasts forever — least of all, good officiating in the National Hockey League.

In the interest of keeping this article concise, I’ll stick with just two highlights of clear penalties that were missed, one for each team. The first one came rather early in the game, and ended up causing Eric Staal to miss the rest of the action.

This is absolutely an interference penalty on Mike Matheson, as he foregoes the puck race to land a big hit on Staal, who also doesn’t have the puck. If they didn’t see it, it’s a complete dereliction of duty based on where the play is. If they saw it and chose not to call it, it’s egregious negligence. Either way, it definitely precipitated some of the things to come in the game.

The second one is far worse...

Grigory Denisenko takes a healthy run at Arber Xhekaj, one where he sees numbers the entire way. There is no turn, no possible way to blame Xhekaj for the hit, and yet Denisenko doesn’t even think about letting up. This could be bordering on suspension worthy, and yet the officials called nothing. Again, zero excuse for missing it given that the puck was right there.

Amidst these missed calls, they managed to make several absurdly soft calls on either side that were likely makeup efforts for the clear cut penalties they ignored. The descent of this game into a third period that involved three fights, Sam Bennett trying to take Jordan Harris’s knee home with him, and Radko Gudas taking an absurd run of his own at Kirby Dach’s knee, is entirely the fault of these officials.

The worst part is that they’ll never have to answer for it. Ghislain Hebert and Jake Brenk won’t have to face a media scrum to answer for their horrendous outing, and if anyone on either team dares to speak out about it in their own scrums, they’ll be fined more than the league will likely fine Bennett for his aforementioned attempt to injure Harris.

This game should be used as an example at referee camps of what happens when you lose control of a game. Hebert and Brenk should be suspended as officials, because they made an already dangerous game far more so than it needs to be.

Of course, I’m more likely to be personally sent free tickets to the next home game in a private box from Gary Bettman himself, than the league is to admit — or even tolerate the suggestion —  that they have an officiating problem.

Click the play button below to listen to your full Bottom Six Minutes, also available on your podcast platform of choice. It’s another relatively quick turnaround, as we’ll be back with another episode on Saturday night after the Habs host the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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