officiating complaints

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Golden Knights compare Eakin major to infamous call against Saints

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In case you’re wondering: yes, the Vegas Golden Knights are very unhappy about Cody Eakin receiving a game misconduct and five-minute major for cross-checking Joe Pavelski, which opened the door for the San Jose Sharks scoring an staggering four goals on the ensuing power play.

The Sharks would eventually fight back from a 3-0 deficit with that power play, although they needed OT to beat the Golden Knights 5-4, which means the Sharks won the series 4-3.

Here’s the hit, which left Pavelski bleeding, and needing plenty of help to leave the ice surface. (Pavelski didn’t return, and the extent of his injuries remains unknown.)

Whether you believe that was the right call or not, it absolutely swung the game, at least for a time. The Golden Knights were up 3-0, and it seemed like they could weather most things … but a power play that wouldn’t end even if the Sharks scored multiple goals? That wasn’t most things.

Credit the Golden Knights for playing well after the shock of that, even scoring a goal to send Game 7 to overtime, but that doesn’t mean they put that call aside.

The most colorful quotes probably come from Jonathan Marchessault, the player who scored the goal to send the game to overtime, and who had a strong Game 7 overall.

“It’s the same thing as that football game, the Saints, it changes the whole outcome,” Marchessault said, via Sin Bin Vegas’ transcription. “The refs just got involved in the game and now our summer starts. Now five [expletive] months until game one.”

Marchessault is referencing the missed pass interference call from the Saints – Rams NFC title game back in January, which drew an admission of a mistake from the NFL.

ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski has more from Marchessault, though a warning: Marchessault’s comments apparently rank as NSFW and not very family-friendly.

It seems like Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant kept it together a bit more, or at least used more PG-friendly language.

“Last season we lost in the Stanley Cup Final, and that was hard,” Gallant said, according to Jesse Granger of the Athletic. “But tonight, this is worse.”

No doubt, officials will be scrutinized for that call. The NHL might even feel compelled to tweak the way calls are made because of it. That much, we’ll need to wait and see.

Yet, there are some questions from Vegas’ end. Yes, it’s difficult to kill five minutes of power play, especially against a Sharks team that a) is extremely dangerous, b) was furious after seeing Joe Pavelski hurt, c) had already failed on four power plays, and d) smelled blood with its season on the line. Still, should Gallant had called a timeout to try to ease some of the momentum, and calm things down? Could Marc-Andre Fleury have stopped at least one of those four goals? As the anger subsides, the Golden Knights should grapple with some of those questions, even if they leave a bitter taste.

Much like the Rams advancing to the Super Bowl, the Sharks eliminated the Golden Knights and will face the Avalanche in Round 2, whether that finish seems unfair or not. The Golden Knights will have to face bitter months in trying to avenge this loss.

And, true, they might also lose some money if the league decides to fine them for criticizing the officiating.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Tough start for Coyotes: Toews scores, Vrbata banged up

It’s understandable that there’s a festive atmosphere in Phoenix. The Coyotes won their first-ever division title. They avoided the Detroit Red Wings after being bounced from the playoffs twice by that team. Unfortunately for the ‘Yotes, the early goings against Chicago haven’t been all peaches and cream.

First, Jonathan Toews signaled his return to action by scoring an opening goal against Phoenix:

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Things went from bad to worse as Radim Vrbata appears to be banged up. Reports are mixed on whether he’s just being evaluated or whether he’ll miss the game completely, but Elliotte Friedman’s update doesn’t foster a lot of confidence for one of the NHL’s sneakiest scorers.

Not every break went against Phoenix, though. The CSN Chicago telecast indicates that the Coyotes might have gotten away with a too many men on the ice infraction in the first portion of a sequence that eventually ended up with a 1-1 goal. Look out for more on what might be the next officiating controversy of these young playoffs later tonight.

Mike Babcock critiques officials during in-game interview

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Sure, there are plenty of times when coaches and players have cliches on call, but in-game and post-game interviews exist because emotional reactions occasionally bleed through. Wednesday night represented one of those times as Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock reacted to a heavy run of penalties in his team’s match against the Nashville Predators while he was interviewed by Brian Engblom.

“The refs are trying to get to the Stanley Cup finals just like the rest of us,” Babcock said.

Check out video of the interview below:

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Naturally, that honest bit of criticism brought out the snark (particularly in comparison to John Tortorella’s recent fine), but the question is: should Babcock’s wallet be a little lighter?

Perhaps, but I think it would set a bad example. It’s one thing to hand a hefty punishment on Tortorella for comments made during a press conference, yet the New York Rangers coach at least had a little more time to decide that he would speak his mind. If the NHL wants to encourage interesting discussion during on-the-bench interviews, then hitting Babcock hard would be counterproductive – it was in the heat of the moment, after all.

What do you think, though? Does Babcock deserve some kind of punishment – even if it’s mainly to be “fair” to Tortorella? Does he have a point? Maybe a little of both? Share your thoughts.

Danny Briere was offside on 3-1 goal

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Danny Briere isn’t the biggest player by any means, so the Philadelphia Flyers forward has become the leading playoff scorer of the post-lockout era because of his cleverness and craftiness. Apparently he’s good at sneaking by officials’ eyes every now and then, as the NBC Sports Network gang captured evidence that Briere was offside while receiving the pass that set up Philly’s only goal so far in a 3-1 game that eventually morphed into a 4-3 overtime shocker.

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It certainly wouldn’t be fair to pin a potential comeback on that blown call alone – some will quibble with an icing that wasn’t called, eventually allowing Pascal Dupuis’ 3-0 goal to happen – but it absolutely helped to open up the door for a Flyers resurgence.

Conspiracy theorists tend to pile up against the Penguins, but any tin foil hat wearers in Pittsburgh might break them out if this game gets interesting as the third period approaches.

Bobby Ryan thinks officiating is “horrendous from an inconsistent standpoint”

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Bobby Ryan had a forgettable game against Nashville last night. Ryan finished the night with no points, a minus-1 rating, and three minor penalties, the last of which led to the Predators game-clinching empty net goal.

With a hat trick like that, you couldn’t blame Ryan for being upset with how he played. He decided to take his frustrations out on the officials instead, telling Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register that the men in stripes have a lot of work to do.

“Oh, it’s been horrendous from an inconsistent standpoint,” Ryan said. “You almost don’t know what you get. You’ve got to wave a white towel almost. It’s upsetting. It is what it is.”

 Waving a white towel is what Roger Neilson did while coach in Vancouver years ago to “surrender” to officials, a sweet hockey history reference by Ryan if that’s what he intended.
Hearing complaints about officiating is becoming commonplace in Anaheim as we’ve heard coach Bruce Boudreau sound off on two different occasions about the refs. The Ducks aren’t going to be making the playoffs and getting frustrated over it is part of the story, but a quick way to guarantee not getting the benefit of the doubt in calls is to point out what a bad job the referees are doing. Leave that stuff to the fans.