Can one poor officiating decision decide a game?
Sure, if the losing team lets it.
The New Orleans Saints couldn’t overcome a pass interference no-call in the NFC championship game. But the St. Louis Blues lost Game 3 of the NHL’s Western Conference Final to San Jose when the Sharks scored directly off a hand pass in overtime, yet the Blues somehow made the Stanley Cup Final and beat Boston in Game 5 on Thursday thanks to a no-call on a trip that resulted in a St. Louis goal.
They say it evens up. It doesn’t.
Boston’s Noel Acciari clearly got tripped by St. Louis’ Tyler Bozak. No call. The foul resulted in possession for the Blues. David Perron scored 9 seconds later.
Boston did not react calmly.
Bruins president Cam Neely fired a water bottle across the executive suite. (“Find a happy place. Find a happy place.”) Coach Bruce Cassidy was apoplectic: “(The NHL is) getting a black eye with their officiating in these playoffs.” The Bruins locker room echoed the feelings of Neely and Cassidy.
It was even worse in the stands. Boston fans littered the ice with debris. They beat each other up. One die-hard flipped off the Blues as they left the ice. Pure class.
To be fair, all that might have happened anyway. It’s Boston, after all.
These days, it’s a race to see who plays the victim. Right now, it’s Boston’s turn. Give the finger, and point the finger. It’s somebody else’s fault.
But here’s an idea: Score more than one goal.
Bozak definitely committed a penalty.
But it’s a judgment call. No referee in any sport (but especially hockey) enforces the whole rulebook all the time. The officials practice willful ignorance. It’s for the sake of preserving the game’s flow. Not bogging things down with too many infractions.
That’s what happened Thursday.
It was 1-0 in the third period. The referees saw Bozak trip Acciari but didn’t want to affect the game. But when the call wasn’t made, the game was drastically affected. Had Perron not scored, that non-call would barely be remembered. But Perron scored.
The refs saw that trip. There was no way not to. They chose to overlook it.
That rarely results in something cataclysmic. But this time, it did. Incidents like this are routine, except when they aren’t.
Will Boston bounce back? The Blues did after that hand-pass decision in the conference final, a bigger absurdity than Thursday’s trip.
But judging by the post-game reaction, it sounds like the Bruins are ready to use what happened as an excuse for finishing runner-up.
Replay and social media are the real villains here.
The use of replay in sports has made too many believe every single thing should be subject to review, perhaps even the scoring of the fights in the stands at Boston. Outrage gets into social media’s echo chamber and spirals out of control.
The Bruins had plenty of opportunity to win Thursday. They outshot St. Louis, 39-21, and had three power plays to the Blues’ one. Boston is probably the better team.
But a 60-minute game got boiled down to one trip, and the subsequent 9 seconds. Because that lets us get mad.
“Our play should define us. Not a call,” Cassidy said.
Correct. But that was up to the Bruins before and after Bozak’s trip. My advice: Put on a fresh set of Pampers and get ready for Game 6.