Wednesday, May 8, 2013


 I don't usually jump on the "refs did it" bandwagon. Every fan base does that when they don't like the way a game turns out, and I've always thought it a little demeaning to do the same. Last night, though, it happened. Friends and I were watching Game Four...the most pivotal game in most playoff series...between the Canadiens and Senators. When Mika Zibanejad’s third-period goal crossed the line, the replay showed two things. First, that rookie Jarred Tinordi had made a rookie defenceman's error and lost his man on the open side of the net while poking at the puck instead. Second, that Zibanejad kicked the puck into the net. Everyone watching with me said, "That was kicked in." I agreed, but I also said, "The league is never calling that back." Sure enough, the goal stood and that decision led to the spiral of disaster that became the heartbreaking, backbreaking loss.

Lots of people are saying today the Habs lay back and allowed the loss to happen to them.  I disagree.
Every team, especially a beat-up team facing an air-tight goalie, is naturally going to want to cling to a two-goal lead. It's instinctive, and it will happen more often than not. That said, even though the Senators out shot the Habs in the third, they didn't have many real threatening chances. Canadiens were doing a decent job at moving the puck out of their zone and even kept it in the Ottawa zone for stretches, although they didn't get a lot of chances.

When the Zibanejad goal was kicked in...and it set a slightly fragile team on edge. Still, they likely would have held off the Senators for the win without the repeated questionable icing calls and subsequent faceoffs that meant Plekanec, struggling in the circle, couldn't get off. I always understood icing would be called if a team shot the puck the length of the ice, out of reach of the opposing defence. Twice the Canadiens lobbed the puck out, and twice Senators defencemen glided gently along after it. Twice they could have easily retrieved the puck with a modicum of effort, and twice the linesmen called icing. Given enough chances to re-set the play with the man advantage, the Senators would have been pretty brutal if they didn't get a good chance.

The funny thing is, the reluctance of "classy" fans to point at the officiating when looking for the cause of a heartbreaking loss is so pervasive, we're looking to blame anything else. So, the team didn't take enough shots in the third. They had the wrong guy out for faceoffs. They couldn't clear the front of the net. They benched Galchenyuk (who, even his biggest defender has to admit is pretty lost in his own end, a LOT) for the third when they could have used a goal. All of those reasons for the loss are acceptable, but it isn't PC to say the officials played a part.

Well, they did. If that first Sens goal had been called back as it should have been, the rest of the whole disaster wouldn't have happened. If the Canadiens had somehow found another way to lose all on their own, that would be a different story. Last night, though, they had a lot of help from an increasingly weak group of NHL officials.

The loss would have been worse, marginally, if it had been the deciding game of the series. As it stands, without Carey Price, Brian Gionta, Ryan White and Lars Eller and with Max Pacioretty very likely nursing some kind of debilitating injury, the bell is tolling for the Habs today. They may take Game Five at the Bell Centre tomorrow, or they may be completely out of gas. Either way, it's not likely they'll pull off three wins in a row at this point. The win they should have had last night would have given them some life, even with the injuries they face. Now, the Habs playoffs are on life support.

It's not cool to blame the officiating for your team's losing a big game these days. I don't care. The Habs got jobbed.


northcoasthab87 said...

The hand of fate slapped the Canadiens across the face last night. Every marginal play and call late in the game went the Senators way. Had the roles been reversed the talking heads would have been raving about the Forum ghosts taking a bus to Scotiabank.

These types of losses are the hardest to swallow. Personally I’d rather lose 6-1 (minus the senseless brawls) than the way game 4 went down. Montreal coulda shoulda and didn’t score just one more goal earlier in the game despite outplaying Ottawa for most of the first two periods. In that sense, Anderson was the difference maker long before the meltdown occurred. Montreal proved yet again that a two goal lead is “the worst lead in hockey” and the Pesky Sens continued playing pesky, winning the game and most likely the series.

moeman said...

Well said J.T. Add this wrong-sided face-offs and few to no Sens penalties.

Orangeman said...

It's not even the plays that make the highlight reel, like penalties or obvious World Cup worthy kicks. It's the little things like the icings, like faceoffs, like non-calls. The NHL has it all down. They know ESPN and TSN aren't going to show a lazy dman going to get the puck and a centreman getting kicked out. They'll just show the game tying goal. And then we sound crazy for talking about the details.

Watching the Canuck series a bit, it's obvious that the Bettman/Jacobs partnership has decided to punish the teams the bruins have decided are 'embellishers'. I don't think the Sens are particularly dirty but they're certainly getting away with a lot more than the Habs are.

Bettman and co. think fights and blood sell the game south of the border. But really, it'll never be a legitimate sport until they clean up the officiating.

Just last night I was talking to an American friend who is a big NFL and NBA fan. He told me he tried to get into hockey but he could never tell what the rules were. As a life long fan, I have to agree. You could show me a play, and I'd have to ask what time of year is it? What's the importance of this game? Who was the offender? What team does he play for? Who did he do it against? Who's the ref? Only then could I take a guess. And, yes, it'd still just be a guess. Try that in any other pro sport.

Mike Safoniuk said...

I normally dislike having people blame the ref's and find it usually to be a case of sour grapes but for this game I think you nailed it! I can not believe that the first Ottawa goal stood. I can not imagine how much more of a kicking motion there could have been. I'm not so sure about the "missed" icings but I do know that often as the play went up ice and the cameras followed the puck, I could see a Montreal player getting knocked to the ice right at the edge of the screen far away from the puck. Not sure what happened here but I call BS on the ref's.

newkidneyontheblock said...

To the Spirit of Cook,look again at the icings.The Sens player slows up to kind of wait for the puck to cross the red line.Other then that I agree with what you said.Oh,by the way I love,love your blog Leigh-Ann.It is the first blog I read when I turn on my computer.

Brian said...

Crap, even Kerry Fraser went on the record saying it was a bad call. I'd take a random group of four guys that do NCAA D-1 games over the useless bags of shit calling them at the NHL level!

pierre said...

Stéphane Auger (a reff who just retired after 12 NHL years) told at l' Antichambre after the game that had he been in charge of the reviewing process he would have had to cancelled that goal.

Both icings got me off my seat in disbeleaf while I was watching, even Kalrsson was unable to refrain from smiling on his way to the Habs' end for the face-off.

3 Jugement call had to be made on those plays, in the end it was simply insane that they would all be
favoring the same side.

We got jobbed alright.

Phil G said...

Why am I not surprised ...the goal went back to Toronto...TORONTO...Ex players...what a joke.Not enough is written about the bias against the Canadiens.Through out the league and media. From the league and the love in with the toronto maple laughs on CBC.So we find out its ex players... that are hired by the league ..back in toronto to make the last call on goals.Until the league smartens up we are out of any real chance.

Phil G said...

Doesn't it feel good to see the leafs go the way they did...I was overjoyed.The shock on CBC was almost worth my month's pension:)