One way or another the officials have played a role in how things go in the playoffs. While 98% of the time (a rough guesstimation) they’re able to keep things under control and do things the right way, there’s always those slivers of doubt and bewilderment should they get a call wrong. In tonight’s Game 7 we’ll have a pair of familiar faces officiating the game and guys that have already done a Game 7 in these playoffs.
Getting the job of handling Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals tonight are Dan O’Halloran and Stephen Walkom. Jean Morin and Jay Sharrers will handle the lines but the focus will be on O’Halloran and Walkom. For these two, this isn’t their first Game 7 dance in these playoffs and if you’re wondering how they might handle things tonight, if how they handled Game 7 between Boston and Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference finals is any clue then don’t expect too many whistles.
In that game, there were zero penalties called as Boston was able to lock things down 1-0 in that Game 7 and move on to the Stanley Cup finals. The zero penalties was the first time that had happened in a playoff game since 1990. To think we’ll see the same thing tonight out of these two teams that have been at each other’s throats through six games might be asking a lot.
When asked about that today, Claude Julien says he doesn’t expect things to be at all similar in how things are handled.
“I don’t know if it really matters because he’s been physical so far and it hasn’t affected our game. We can say right now in this series that the penalties cost us a game, so we just have to go out there and play, there are no guarantees that just because there were no penalties in the last game seven that it is going to be the same. To be honest with you, I doubt it, the way it’s been played. But nonetheless I think our focus has to remain the same. Good penalty killing and hopefully our power play does a good job tonight. And five-on-five we have to bring our best game,” Julien said.
The addition of O’Halloran to Game 7 is interesting because he officiated in Game 6 with Kelly Sutherland. As the boys at Kurtenblog note, Sutherland had a bit of a curious incident in Game 6 in which he got in between Henrik Sedin and Brad Marchand after Marchand took five or six jabs at Sedin’s face late in the game without a penalty being called nor a Sedin retaliation.
ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun noted the exchange and Sutherland apparently doesn’t have much a trigger finger when it comes to tossing a guy in the box for doing something obviously wrong, at least according to Sedin.
“Maybe after the fifth. But I took six. What can I do?” said Sedin, clearly agitated after being Marchand’s punching bag in the third period.
An emotional Sedin said something afterward to referee Kelly Sutherland.
“I asked him why he didn’t call the penalty. He said he was going to,” Sedin said.
With Game 7 figuring to be a powder keg-like situation, that lack of ability to control a situation is an absolute no-go. With Walkom, O’Halloran, and Sutherland getting the bulk of the work in the finals, seeing Sutherland not get the call to do this game is certainly worthy of a perked eyebrow.
The officials will give the guys all the room they need to decide the game on their own terms, but should things get out of hand with anything ranging from iffy hits to errant flops on the ice, they’ll make sure to act fast to put an end to it. The officials don’t want to be the reason for deciding a game, but wise words on these sorts of things stem from the Rush song “Freewill”:
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
Here’s to hoping all the decisions made tonight are made with correct convictions.