Reffing Bad But Not at Fault for Wings’ Loss

As any frequent readers might guess, I’m not doing a formal recap of the Game Three loss. I’ve got an opinion about this one and I’m going to babble.

Malik already has a post up called “I don’t want to hear about the refs.” I do want to hear about them but not in the context of why the Wings lost.

Detroit lost because they got three shots in the third period. They lost because they failed to clear their defensive zone repeatedly. They lost because they did an awful job of blocking shots and because they scrambled and were out of position in their own end. None of that is any ref’s fault.

That said, I don’t think the refs can go without being criticized. While they didn’t cause the loss, they sure as hell didn’t call a good game.

The big thing that a lot of people will have trouble letting go is four officials all missing the fact that the Penguins had an extra man on the ice for a whole 20 seconds in the first period. I agree with that one. Given that it’s one of the penalties a linesman can call it’s insane to me to think that no one saw it. What else do they miss if they couldn’t see that one for over 20 seconds?

I’ve gotta just shake my head at that one. Thankfully nothing really came of it so it’s easier to ignore after the fact. Someone should get chewed out for it, though.

The penalty on Jonathan Ericsson in the third period… That’s the painful one. The Penguins got their game-winner on that one and it’s hard to ignore the cheapness of the call.

First off, yes, it was a penalty. As written in the rulebook, that is a play that should be called. So in the context of the rulebook it was the right call.

In the context of the game, however, I’m not happy about it.

First off, it’s a play that Hal Gill made repeatedly throughout the game. I can remember without video replay two or three times he held up Marian Hossa coming into the Pittsburgh end chasing after the puck. And it wasn’t called any of those times. So to treat that play as if it weren’t a penalty all game only to call it midway through the third is confusing to me.

Additionally, this came just minutes after Chris Kunitz put a high hit on Johan Franzen that went uncalled. One that even the NBC guys were questioning. By not calling that, the refs have signaled that they’ve “put the whistles away” but then they seemingly reverse that by calling Ericsson. What you end up having is a high hit not being worth a penalty but a cheap hold getting called.

It’s not a conspiracy, these refs didn’t do this to give Pittsburgh an advantage, it’s just something that looks bad. The Red Wings didn’t lose because of it but hockey fans everywhere have a right to feel like it left a bad taste in their mouths.

And just because I’m sure someone somewhere will make the argument, this is how these are different from the calls Penguins fans made for Henrik Zetterberg to be penalized for covering the puck in the Detroit crease earlier in the series:

That call was entirely subjective. The official announcement was that the officials didn’t think Zetterberg closed his hand on the puck, instead he was just sweeping the puck off Osgood’s back. Kind of like how you can knock the puck down with your glove and it’s not the same as catching it.

I can see how some might say the dirtiness of Kunitz’s hit was subjective, too, though I don’t agree that it was clean.

I can’t see how you can compare any of Gill’s uncalled holding to Ericsson’s called holding and see any subjective difference. The two players made the same play. Maybe not the exact same steps but the same effect and the same intent. Someone will have to explain what the difference is.

Speaking of subjective, the Penguins’ best player in Game Three was Evgeni Malkin with three assists. Lucky Pittsburgh that he was ruled to have not been sending a message at the end of Game Two, otherwise they’d have played this game without him.

Author: Clark Rasmussen

Clark founded the site that would become DetroitHockey.Net in September of 1996 with no idea what it would lead to. He continues to write for the site and executes the site's design and development.