The Chicago Blackhawks thought they had it in the bag.
With less than two minutes remaining in the third period of a 1-1 tie in Game 7, Niklas Hjalmarsson scored what appeared to be the go-ahead and potential game-winning goal on Wednesday night — only it wasn’t meant to be.
Referee Stephen Walkom whistled Kyle Quincey and Brandon Saad for matching roughing minors right before Hjalmarsson scored his goal.
The officials huddled, skated to the timekeeper and announced they were waving off the goal while over 21,000 fans at the United Center continued to celebrate.
Those celebrations quickly turned to disbelief, and boos (and, litter on the ice).
It was one of the most questionable, controversial and stunning calls in recent playoff memory.
But in the end, it didn’t matter.
Brent Seabrook won it for Chicago just 3:35 into overtime, and the only person happier than Seabrook might’ve been Walkom, who was, for all intents and purposes, let off the hook.
Because let’s be honest here.
Controversial calls — or, non-calls — get etched in our memory only when they have change/decide the outcome of a game:
— Brett Hull’s “No Goal” in the 1999 Stanley Cup against Buffalo
— Wayne Gretzky avoiding a high-sticking call on Doug Gilmour in the ’93 Conference finals
— The Islanders’ offside goal in Game 6 of the 1980 Stanley Cup finals against Philly
Those are unforgettable.
I’m not sure this is.
To be honest, I have no idea what the legacy/infamy of this call will be.
Heck, I don’t even know what the ramifications will be.
Walkom might be dropped from the officiating rotation for the Conference finals, a relatively light punishment given how disastrous this could’ve been. The call won’t, most likely, affect his career the way the Gilmour-Gretzky high stick defined Kerry Fraser’s.
At the same time, it feels like this call has to somehow be remembered, because it was just so rare and bizarre and unfathomable.
If you had to pick an absolute worse-case scenario for a referee, it would probably be disallowing a good goal late in Game 7, costing the home team in one of the NHL’s loudest rinks.
(And if you’re wondering if Walkom got it at all right, consider this Tweet from Fraser.)
So here’s your chance, PHT commenters.
We know you have ideas, go share them.
Update: Just for clarity’s sake, the call was considered controversial because 1) Walkom stopped an ongoing play to address a scrum that wasn’t affecting the action or anywhere near the puck.
And 2) the case could be made Walkom should’ve called just a penalty on Quincey, not coincidentals to Quincey and Saad. (“I was shocked when the linesman told me I was going to the box,” Saad said afterward).
If that was the case, then the play wouldn’t have been blown dead because Chicago had possession.