How the Refs Are Ruining the Stanley Cup Final

June 07, 2019 - 1:32 pm

There are plenty of legitimate reasons for missed calls. Hockey is a fast game. The refs are not always going to be at the right angle to see an infraction. Penalties are judgment calls, and no one judges correctly 100 percent of the time.

But when the NHL's officials continue to miss big calls over and over again on the sport's biggest stage, at some point you have to acknowledge that there is a serious problem.

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There are so many other things we should be talking about -- and want to be talking about -- after Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, but it is just impossible to ignore what we all saw Thursday night.

It is impossible to ignore what we've seen all playoffs. The five-minute major that never should've been called that swung Game 7 between the Las Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks. The missed puck off the netting that cost the Boston Bruins a goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The missed hand pass that cost the St. Louis Blues an overtime game against the Sharks.

And now this Bruins-Blues series, where the officiating has steadily deteriorated en route to its nadir Thursday night. After the Bruins' Game 1 win, the Blues clearly made it a point to ramp up the physicality and see how much they could get away with.

In Game 2, Oskar Sundqvist hit Matt Grzelcyk in the head from behind and only got a two-minute minor. He wound up getting a one-game suspension tacked onto that, but the Blues stayed the course in Game 3.

After taking five penalties in each of the first two games, they took seven more in Game 3 and should've had even more, as Sammy Blais and Jaden Schwartz both got away with hits to the head and David Perron got away with crashing into Tuukka Rask (then finally got called for goalie interference when he did it again later in the game).

Knowing full well the way his team was playing, Blues coach Craig Berube used the break between Games 3 and 4 to question why his team was getting called for so many penalties. The strategy was clear: Dare the refs to call everything. Dare them to continue calling even the same number of penalties.

Two games later, we can confidently say that Berube's complaining worked. The Blues have been called for just three penalties in each of the last two games, despite clearly not letting up or playing any less physically.

There is a fine line between "letting the boys play" and missing blatant penalties that affect the game, and the refs were clearly on the wrong side of that line in Game 5.

They once again missed a pair of hits to the head, first from Ivan Barbashev on Marcus Johansson, then from Zach Sanford on Torey Krug.





Then they missed an obvious hold by Sundqvist on Torey Krug that led to a golden opportunity for the Blues, and would've led to a goal had it not been for a great save from David Krejci, of all people.



And then most obviously, and most egregiously, they missed a clear slew-foot from Tyler Bozak on Noel Acciari that helped set up the Blues' second goal, which proved to be the game-winner in their 2-1 victory. Not only was it a clear penalty that affected the play, but it was also a dangerous play that forced Acciari to leave the game and get checked for a concussion.



Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy didn't hold back after the game when asked about the officiating.

"The non-call on Acciari, their player's on his way to the box," Cassidy said. "It's right in front of the official. It's a slew-foot. Our guy's gone. The spotter took him out of the game for a possible concussion. I mean, it's blatant. It had a big effect on the game.

"I mean, this has happened. I'm a fan of the game, but the National Hockey League's getting a black eye with your officiating in these playoffs. And here's another one that's going to be talked about."

He's right. We are talking about it. Not because it's fun to complain about officiating -- no one wants to be a whiner or homer -- but because it really is a big story, as it has been far too often this spring. It just played a major role in deciding Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final.

The NHL has a problem, and it's a shame that problem has continuously distracted from and overshadowed such great hockey.

By Scott McLaughlin

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