The NHL has one of the best playoffs in all of sports. It might even be the best one in sports. There really is nothing like it. The feeling that every single shot is going to be a goal. Feeling your heart pounding like you're the one playing. The stress, anxiety, joy, pain, excitement and all the other emotions you feel during a game. You can feel the whole spectrum of human emotion in a single hockey game. And no matter what if your favorite team is in the playoffs you'll feel all those emotions four times. If you're lucky sixteen times. For better or worse. But there is a glaring problem in it all, and it's one of the most important parts. The officiating.
You might be thinking to yourself, "bullshit the refs are the most important part. You're gonna tell me refs are more important than the players? Get the fuck outta here." But hear me out. I'm not going to say refs are more important than the players, they're not, but they are a huge part of the game. Especially with how the NHL calls the rules in the playoffs. Cause this year it doesn't seem like the refs are calling anything a penalty.
In the regular season it seemed like the refs called all the ticky-tac plays that didn't need to be penalties. We as fans griped and groaned that "refs shouldn't be deciding the game" when they called those penalties. It was infuriating to see a replay during the regular season on a slashing call when a player barely tapped an opposing player's hand. But during the playoffs the refs won't even call a high stick on a play when it draws blood. Personally I'd rather the refs be calling absolutely every penalty rather than have them ignore something that egregious.
Sure we complain all the time about how "refs shouldn't be deciding the games," but they're still deciding the games by not calling penalties. Take into consideration that teams with star players get more penalties. Why? Because the other team is spending all their time and energy trying to defend that star player. So of course they are going to draw a penalty or two. So when a ref calls a penalty because someone did something illegal to that star player the ref is deciding the game. But they are doing the exact same thing when they don't call that penalty.
When a ref doesn't call a penalty he gives an advantage to the team without the star player. That team just got away with something they shouldn't have and now they're going to keep doing it. So the team without the star player just gets to slow the game down and force the other team to play to their grimy level. Hockey is an amazing sport, don't get me wrong, but when refs refuse to call obvious penalties because they "don't want to decide the game" they are making it a worse game to watch. They end up deciding the game either way. I'd much rather them call everything that should be a penalty rather than the refs blatantly ignore a player punching someone in the face.
I don't want to watch the Jets sweep Connor McDavid and the Oilers in round one. I want to watch one of the best hockey players in the world do what he does best in the playoffs. That entire series the Jets were able to get away with interfering, slashing, high sticking, you name it. And all against one of the best players in the NHL. Connor McDavid didn't draw a single penalty in four games. That' has like a 5% chance to happen. It wasn't just in that series either. He hasn't drawn a penalty in the last eight playoff games. That is damn near statistically improbable. If you've watched any capacity of playoff hockey this year you've noticed how bad the officiating has been. Bruce Cassidy, head coach of the Bruins, got fined $250K for saying the refs were treating the Islanders like a bunch of Saints. He wasn't the only one complaining about the refs either. Pete Deboar, head coach of the Knights, called out the refs as well for their poor performance. Although he wasn't fined for some reason. Instead his team hasn't been called for one (1) penalty that wasn't a delay of game or fighting since then. Strange how that works. But these two head coaches aren't the only ones pissed at the officiating.
It seems like everyone in the hockey world has an axe to grind with the officiating this playoffs. After pretty much every game there has been at least a clip or two of a really bad missed call. And they almost always feature a ref staring right at the play and promptly skating away. Kind of like this...
I still can't believe that ref watched someone get punched in the face from five feet away and just looked away like he never saw it happen.
It's been especially bad in the Canadiens/Knights series. The refs missed one of the worst slashing calls I've seen. Well it might not have been the worse slashing I've seen, but it sure was the worst missed call I've ever seen. I can't believe I'm about to defend Corey Perry, but I have to do it. Him getting hit in the face and slicing his nose open should have been an immediate four minute penalty. The man was holding a piece of his nose on to his face for christ's sake. What more does he have to do to draw a penalty? Spit that blood in the refs face? No he'd probably get suspended for that. But damn a ref would have to be legally blind to miss that much blood poring from Perry's face on to the ice. Chris Lee, the ref in charge of the Knights/Canadiens series, must be blind to be missing these calls. Because him and his crew have missed a fuck load of calls.
There is no way that the Knights have only 8 penalty minutes in the third round of the playoffs. They've played four games so far and they've only had one minor penalty a game? I don't care who they are, no team plays that clean a game of hockey. It just doesn't add up. I'm not trying to say that the NHL is favoring the Knights, I'm just saying that the refs aren't calling shit against them. In reality the refs aren't calling anything a penalty, especially in this series. It's been prison rules since the puck has dropped, and it kind of sucks. I like a good physical game of hockey, but not at the expense of the skill and talent of the star players. The refs are deciding the games by not calling anything. They are deciding they want to see a slowed down, drudge of a game that features tiny bursts of excitement. Which sounds like a game between the Ducks and Coyotes. The refs have essentially limited the scoring chances because they don't want to call penalties in crucial points of the game. Well, news flash, every point of the game is crucial in the playoffs.
It doesn't matter when the refs decides to call a penalty or not, it's still a crucial point in the game. If players, and fans for that matter, don't want the refs to decide the game then the players shouldn't be taking penalties. Simple as that. But when the ref decides to ignore a blatant penalty that could have led to a goal scored, then they are still deciding the game. And I'd much rather the refs be deciding the game in a way that leads to more goals and a faster game, not the exact opposite. This playoffs have shown how bad the NHL's officiating problem really is. The lack of real officiating has allowed unskilled players to literally drag down star players to their level and it's bound to get someone hurt real bad. Plus it's slowed down one of the fastest sports in the world and made it less fun to watch. Which sucks. The NHL has got to fix their officiating problem and they should never let Chris Lee work another NHL game ever again.