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BOSTON (CBS) — The Boston Bruins beat the New York Rangers on Tuesday night despite the best effort of Henrik Lundqvist, despite the 18 skaters in blue sweaters standing in their way, and despite the two men with orange armbands doing their best to influence the game.
We can’t say that the effect of referees Dan O’Rourke and Kevin Pollock on the game was intentional, or part of some grand scheme to help out the Rangers, thereby extending the series and creating more playoff games between two Original Six teams in a TV-ratings bonanza. But because the officiating was so noticeably one-sided, we’re left with more than enough reason to feel as though something fishy was going on.
–Ryan Callahan hit 6-foot-9 defenseman Zdeno Chara in the face with a stick early in the game. Chara bled. It should have been a four-minute double-minor and was absolutely impossible to miss. The refs missed it.
–David Krejci carried the puck into the zone on a 2-on-2 rush in the first period. Dan Girardi dropped to the ice and swung his stick at Krejci’s feet, knocking the puck carrier down. No call for tripping was made.
–In the second period, Chris Kelly carried the puck into the Rangers zone. Defenseman Steve Eminger reached out with his hand, grabbed Kelly’s shoulder and spun him around to knock him off his track. Jaromir Jagr had already been penalized for a similar but lesser infraction, but Eminger’s hold went uncalled.
–Roughly 105 seconds into the third period, Rick Nash slashed Chara’s arms to separate Chara from the puck. No call.
–Later in the third, Tyler Seguin carried the puck across the offensive blue line in a 1-on-3 situation. Seguin tried to send a shot on net, and he hit Chris Kreider in the face with his stick on the follow-through. By rule, a high-stick on the follow-through of a shot is not a penalty. Almost simultaneous to the time Seguin’s stick hit Kreider’s face. Eminger’s stick came up and hit Seguin in the face. Again, this was the puck carrier/shooter, so theoretically a referee might be looking at him, but again, no call was made.
Pollock also whistled a play dead for losing sight of the puck, even though the puck was very clearly sitting in the blue paint next to Lundqvist, and the four on-ice officials seemingly negated an icing by the Rangers in the second period for reasons unknown.
Now, when you take all of that into consideration, then add in how Brendan Shanahan went out of his way to make a cockamamie excuse for Rick Nash not getting suspended in March, when the Rangers were teetering on the brink of falling out of a playoff spot and desperately needed their best scorer. Then you add in how the Washington Capitals were awarded zero power plays, compared to the Rangers’ five, in Game 6 of the first round, when the Rangers faced a do-or-die situation at Madison Square Garden. After eventually losing in seven games, Alex Ovechkin publicly said the league wanted the series to go seven games in order to make more money and generate more TV ratings.
The Rangers have now gotten the last 11 power plays awarded on Madison Square Garden ice, extending back to the first period of Game 4 against Washington. Is it entirely possible that the physical Rangers have played squeaky-clean hockey for the past 162 minutes on home ice? Technically, yes, but everyone saw Tuesday night that the penalties are being committed; the calls just aren’t being made.
Something simply stinks. I won’t pretend to know what it is, or accuse Gary Bettman of taking a page out of his buddy David Stern’s book, because I do not know what caused the officiating to be so bad on Tuesday night. There are also plenty of other teams with gripes about officiating this postseason (Chicago Blackhawks on line two). Regardless, the league does not look good. Whether it was the wildest conspiracy imaginable or just your run-of-the-mill referee incompetency, the “work” of O’Rourke and Pollack ought to be examined closely on Wednesday. And we deserve some sort of explanation.
It won’t be reviewed and we won’t get that explanation, because this is the NHL, where incompetence tends to be the norm. Instead, we’re just left to wonder what in the world is going on.