NHL playoff officiating is under fire, and rightfully so. Bad calls have plagued the playoffs thus far and it’s getting out of control. One such bad call cost the Vegas Golden Knights a series-deciding game. Another cost the St. Louis Blues a pivotal Game 3 in the Western Conference Final, in overtime, no less.
NHL Playoff Officiating Needs to Improve
In any professional sport when calls are missed it damages the reputation of the sport. The NHL is fully aware of this. When the hand pass wasn’t called in the Blues/San Jose Sharks game the league felt they needed to comment on it.
This was what NHL executive vice-president Colin Campbell had to say about it on Sportsnet‘s Hockey Central at Noon:
So, what solutions are possible? Many say adding a play such as the hand-pass or a puck off the spectator netting should be added to plays which can be reviewed. The flipside of that argument is, does it slow down the game too much? When a team has gained some momentum wouldn’t that delay ruin the flow of the game?
Of course, it would, but you can bet the league takes these issues into their discussions over summer meetings of the general managers. They can’t ignore them… they won’t just go away.
The other issue is what is wrong with a hand-pass? They allow it in the defensive zone. So, what was wrong with Timo Meier just batting the puck down (since he was on his knees) and couldn’t use his stick to direct the puck? It didn’t appear that he was intentionally thinking, “oh, let me get it over to Erik Karlsson so he can score the winning goal.”
Sharks Have Benefited From Two Questionable Calls
Everyone still remembers the other major missed call by the officials in the Vegas Golden Knights/San Jose Game 7. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski was cross-checked and fell to the ice in the faceoff circle. It is a certainty that Pavelski clearly remembers it. He missed 15 days and the next six games in round two due to the head injury he sustained when he hit the ice.
He sported a football-style face guard to protect his face after he had been hit in the mouth with a puck earlier. That occurred in the first period of Game 1 against the Vegas Golden Knights. Pavelski returned in the second period.
Many feel that the Sharks received a gift by having a five-minute major called against Cody Eakin of the Knights. It gave the San Jose club a chance to eliminate a three-goal deficit. Eventually, the Sharks prevailed in overtime to take the decisive Game 7.
Another Missed Call Didn’t Decide the Game
This missed call happened during Game 4 with the Columbus Blue Jackets playing the visiting Boston Bruins. Artemi Panarin was the lucky player to score on a missed call when the puck hit the spectator netting. Granted he didn’t grab the puck when it fell from the netting but teammate Oliver Bjorkstrand did, who passed to Panarin, who scored.
At the time it cut the Boston lead in half to 2-1 and ruined Tuukka Rask‘s shutout.
The rule here states: “When pucks that hit the spectator netting undetected by the on-ice officials, “immediately” shall mean the following:
A) When the puck strikes the spectator netting and deflects directly into the goal off of any player;
B) When the puck strikes the spectator netting and falls into the goal by the player who retrieves the puck.
In both of the above scenarios, the NHL situation room must have definitive video evidence of the puck striking the netting in order to disallow the goal”.
Of course, this may need to be resolved as a reviewable play when the NHL decides to discuss such issues. It seems that if we can put a man on the moon we should be able to detect when a puck hits the protective netting with some sort of buzzer, light, etc. to help the officials know the puck is out of play.
Action by the League Must Happen to Address NHL Playoff Officiating
The NHL doesn’t like bad public relations, and this is surely causing a ton of it for them. Granted reviewable plays happen much more frequently in the instance of offsides, and goalie interference rather than the above examples.
With that said, the league should act in some manner to address these pitfalls. Officials are human and if the average person thinks they wouldn’t miss some of these calls they’re kidding themselves.
Unfortunately, there are now eight officials who have been banned from working any more NHL playoff games due to the missed calls.
Let’s hope the crews working the Stanley Cup Final can avert any of the embarrassing missed calls. I mean if it occurs again in the last round, things will become drastic if not detrimental to the game’s integrity.