I understand that NHL referees are human and therefore cannot be expected to make the correct call every time. For the most part I have not had much of a problem with the officials during the playoffs. These are high profile games where every second will be over analyzed, and so far the refs have not made headlines.
However, last night’s Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins game turned into a complete “ref show”. While the calls mostly went against the Columbus Blue Jackets, (7 for Columbus and 3 for Pittsburgh) the Penguins had their share of soft penalties called as well.
One of the most embarrassing sequences in the game started with an unsportsmanlike penalty called on Nick Foligno for “snowing the goaltender”. As the video shows below, Foligno was in a chase for the puck, but Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury covers it up when it reaches the front of the crease. Foligno hits the breaks about five feet from Fleury, and of course some snow flies up towards Fleury. The officials felt that this was an intentional action by Foligno and Columbus was assessed a two minute penalty.
It wasn’t just Columbus fans who felt the call was a bit ridiculous for the Stanley Cup Playoffs; Ken Laird of TRIB radio in Pittsburgh had this to say:
— Ken Laird (@Ken_Laird) April 22, 2014
Moments into the power play after the Foligno penalty, James Neal was whistled off for cross checking. Again, it was no more egregious than anything else either team had done all night.
Regarding an earlier goaltender interference call on Boone Jenner, who appeared to be pushed into Marc-Andre Fleury, Dave Lozo had this to say:
No one has ever done more to avoid goaltender interference in the history of the NHL than Boone Jenner just did.
— Dave Lozo (@DaveLozo) April 22, 2014
No one is tuning into the Stanley Cup Playoffs to watch the officials. Games 1 and 2 of the Columbus / Pittsburgh series were exciting, physical, hard hitting games and the officials allowed both the Penguins and Blue Jackets to play. In Game 3, there was no consistency to the calls; what was clean in the first period was suddenly cross checking in the second.
I can’t even remember how many times I heard the announcers say a penalty was coming for a blatant boarding or roughing penalty, only to have the ref announce a hooking or holding call for the opposite side.
The puck over the glass penalty called on the Jackets earlier in the game is a no brainer, as was the holding call on James Wisniewski late in the third. But the soft calls on Neal and Foligno have no place in the playoffs. The officials were not responsible for the Columbus Blue Jackets collapse in the third period, but it could be argued they affected the momentum of the game.