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BIG SANDY… It is no secret that the NHL’s officials are having a challenging Stanley Cup tournament thus far. Considering that, how coincidental is the TV spot featuring a prominent league star, Boston’s David Pastrnak? He is pitching for a National donut and coffee chain that, unless you have been living in a cave, you know who they are. In this spot “Pasta” as he is known to his teammates and fans gets a penalty in a game and is escorted to the penalty box and when he goes through the door to head to the box, there is a conveniently placed mini stand of this chain. After some small talk with the young lady behind the counter, and as he was going to sit down, he calls out to the referee who just penalized him “hey ref, you better check your voicemail, you missed some calls”!
Well, that’s an old joke in many hockey circles, but it is turning out to be no joke in this year’s playoffs. In fact, a missed call cost the St. Louis Blues a shot at continuing in an Overtime period with a chance to win that game. In Game 3 at STL’s Enterprise Center, in a hotly contested tilt the San Jose Sharks tied this game late in the 3rd period and then in the ensuing OT frame just 5:23 in, the Sharks scored what eventually was deemed to be the official winning goal. The problem here is that in the sequence leading up to the goal there was a hand pass to initiate the play, and the four on-ice officials didn’t see it, which would have drawn an automatic whistle, immediately halting play. The goal was scored by the Sharks Erik Karlsson and that was that. Why? The league failed to include a possible scenario like this upon their list of reviewable on-ice occurrences. Game over.
Several Blues players pled with the officials who, once they figured out it was not reviewable, made their way off the ice as soon as they could. They knew the play should have been whistled dead. This exclusion put them in an uncomfortable position. The Blues players were furious. And they should have been. This is the highest-level hockey tournament on the planet. Situations like this are “freak” occurrences of course. But they can and do happen in the game. The clichés are true. It’s a fast game. Yes, it is. Sometimes the refs miss stuff. Yup, it can and does happen. And the league owes it to all involved to insure that matters like this are accounted for and fixable when they do occur. The league failed the Blues. They may have still lost the game but didn’t get that chance.
Additionally, there are consequences with major implications here. After that 3rd game, with the Sharks now leading the series 2-1, that meant that they only had to win 2 of the next 4 games if that turns out to be an eventuality, while it put the Blues in the unenviable situation of having to secure 3 of 4. You don’t think that seems like much of a big deal? Think it over. This is unconscionable to me. How could the league not have considered this while assembling the video review processes? Well, the Blues ended up handling it in as good of a manner that they could with Head Coach Craig “Chief” Berube leading the way. With the assembled postgame media wanting to belabor the issue for as long as possible, Berube cut it off fairly quick. He stated that it was done and over with, cannot be changed and that it was time to focus on what was in front of them with the necessity of a G4 victory in their sights.
In the postgame timeframe leading up to G4 this issue was buzzing through the hockey world as you would expect. As it should be. For me, I can’t fathom that the league didn’t consider that something like this could occur in a game, any game, regular or postseason and make provisions for its review on the video review list. They failed to do so, and an extremely important victory was won on a play that should not have counted. I’m not a Blues or Sharks fan. And at this point all I can hope is that this egregious error does not cost the Blues a chance to advance to the SC Final or unfairly aid the Sharks in their quest to get there. So, where to proceed from here?
It’s clear that the list of plays and/or possible occurrences allowed to be looked at in the video review process needs to be examined and repaired. At the minimum, from this point forward every goal scored in the playoffs or regular season should get an automatic review. I can’t believe that this isn’t being done already. Secondly, lets install an off-ice official to be at every league game. You already have a pool of qualified officials who have retired to choose from. This could be the support system needed to make the officiating process as failsafe as is possible. With the human and technological capabilities available to the NHL, this is a situation that should never happen. Ever. It did and contemplating other faux pas’ that have occurred in this particular tournament, the league has some very important repair work on it’s offseason plate when this tourney is finis’. I don’t fault the guys on the ice, the problem here was clearly a procedural matter. I have faith the league will do all in its powers to fix this and move the game forward….
THE STANLEY CUP tourney is raging forth and this afternoon in a matinee taking place out in SJ, the Blues lead the Sharks 3-0 at the 2nd INT. The Blues won G4 2-1, and with a win today, Tuesday nights G6 will become an elimination game. With other travel on the horizon, I procrastinated about going to this game, and now, throwing caution to the wind and deciding to go anyway, I just attempted to make a buy on 7 different seats only to have the screen appear stating that the ticket had just been purchased. Looks like I’m not going. Rats. I have a feeling right now that STL is taking control of the series and Tuesday eve could be historical for the franchise. They haven’t been to a Final since 1970. Of course, there is still a lot of hockey to be played. (the Blues have just gone up 5-0 in the 3rd)
IN THE EAST, the Bruins eliminated the Hurricanes in a four-game sweep and are at home awaiting the Western winner. I have to believe the league is silently hoping for a BOS-SJS series for the TV markets available. But that’s another topic with lots of politics involved. But I know how Gary Bettman and the league think so, I’ll not expound on it at this time. Overall though, this has been another edge-of-the-seat tourney, and I am enjoying it in total. And wonder of wonders, I haven’t seen much of a certain donut commercial today. Hmmmmm…. PEACE