Postgame: Red Wings @ Blue Jackets – 3/25

I’m unhappy with the game-winner tonight but to focus entirely on that is to ignore the problems the Red Wings have.

Coming down the stretch, needing a goal to get even, how many unscreened shots from the blue line got straight through to McElhinney to grab for a stop in play? No second chances, no tips in front. And if it wasn’t the Gustav Nyquist / Riley Sheahan / Tomas Tatar line, there was no offense. They really are the new Eurotwins.

It’s not just Nyquist and Tatar, though. Sheahan is becoming a force. His move to get the puck to Nyquist on the first Detroit goal was beautiful.

Also on the personnel front, Mitch Callahan looked acceptable in his NHL debut. Better than Landon Ferraro, probably worse than Teemu Pulkkinen. Didn’t do enough to make me want to see more of him if Tomas Jurco comes back on Thursday but I wouldn’t expect that.

That said, let’s come back to that game-winner. I have issues with it on multiple fronts.

First is the call, that the net came off because Brendan Smith pushed Cam Atkinson into it. Yes, Smith pushed Atkinson. He didn’t push him that much.

Second is that Atkinson was standing in the space normally occupied by the post while he handled the puck. If he wasn’t able to be in that spot, he wouldn’t have been able to score. If he was able to be in that spot, clearly the net being off its moorings had an affect on the play.

Third, goes back to last weekend, when this goal was waived off but then Columbus’ is allowed to stand. Just feels like the Wings are the only team that can’t get away with anything around the net.

But coming out of the night Detroit still holds a playoff spot, sitting in eighth due to tiebreakers as they’re tied for seventh with Columbus, Toronto and Washington. Big games coming up against Montreal and Toronto later this week.

More Thoughts on Columbus’ Disputed Goal and the Human Element

In my postgame notes last night, I talked a bit about Cam Atkinson‘s disputed game-winning goal for the Blue Jackets, scored after the net had come off its moorings. I want to come back to that, briefly.

When the goal first happened, I was sure they were going to allow it as the position of the goal at the time the puck crossed the line had no impact on the play. The puck crossed the line solidly between where the posts would have been and at ice-level, you could have seen that even if the goal itself was in the zamboni tunnel.

As I said after the game (and brought up on Twitter at the time), I wondered if the fact that Atkinson scored while standing where the post should have been would make a difference. I would assume not but we didn’t get an answer for that, instead we were told it didn’t matter because Brendan Smith was at fault for the net coming off in the first place. And that’s fine, we can’t expect a March game between the Red Wings and Blue Jackets to set a precedent on such an edge-case play.

So what we get is the proper result but a stupid reason for it. That goal should have counted but whether or not Smith pushed Atkinson enough to knock the net loose is not as definite as we were told.

It also brings to mind Smith’s apparent goal against the Minnesota Wild last weekend. In that case, Johan Franzen was pushed into goalie Darcy Kuemper by defenseman Marco Scandella, leading to Smith’s goal being called back due to incidental contact.

Four days ago, when Franzen gets pushed it’s his fault for making contact. Last night, when Atkinson got pushed it was Smith’s fault for doing it.

I think some of the outrage at Atkinson’s goal standing is because of the little bit of cognitive dissonance required for both of those cases to be true.

That said, that’s what baseball fans call the “human element,” isn’t it? The referees won’t always get it right and the game is better for it?

It’s an idea I strongly disagree with. As I said last night, missing calls doesn’t make the game better, it just makes the refs look worse.

Of course, there’s a certain amount of double-think required in being a sports fan. We saw Drew Miller take a high stick, he had to be helped off the ice, but because neither ref saw it, it officially did not happen. Because officials are treated as infallible, there’s not even an admission of having missed it. Video of the play exists but it never occurred.

That’s a bit of hyperbole. You hear mention all the time of even-up calls but that’s not quantifiable, it’s just another manifestation of the human element.

So maybe the outrage comes from expecting an even-up here, one that didn’t happen. Maybe it comes from looking at how Detroit lost a goal against Minnesota and how Columbus scored one against Detroit and not being able to process the double-think, figuratively throwing up your hands, and saying, “This is a joke.”