As Toronto Maple Leafs fans began to work through their stages of grief following a Game 7 loss to the Boston Bruins, supporters of the Vegas Golden Knights found themselves on the verge of dispatching a feisty San Jose Sharks club.
Then, at the 9:13 mark of the third period (while ahead 3-0) the Golden Knights fell victim to one of the most brutal missed calls in recent Stanley Cup Playoff history.
Following a faceoff, Golden Knights forward Cody Eakin landed a solid crosscheck to the body of Sharks captain Joe Pavelski. After losing his balance, Pavelski got tied up with Eakins’ line mate, Paul Stastny, before taking a nasty headfirst fall onto the ice. Blood was everywhere and Pavelski needed lots of assistance getting back to the locker room.
Unbelievably, this play resulted in a five-minute major for Eakin, as well as a game misconduct. On the ensuing power play, the Sharks remarkably potted four goals. The Golden Knights’ Jonathan Marchessault tied the contest in the final minute of the third period, but would soon witness Sharks forward Barclay Goodrow net an overtime winner. Just like that, the season for the Golden Knights was over.
“It’s a f—ing joke. It’s embarrassing,” said a frustrated Marchessault postgame. “That’s what it is. It changed the entire outcome of the game, and the season.”
“Last season we lost in the Stanley Cup Final, and that was hard. But tonight, this is worse,” offered Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant. Additionally, Gallant explained that he was told by the officiating crew that it saw a crosscheck to the face on the play.
“The referees called a cross-checking penalty for an infraction that caused a significant injury,” offered the series’ supervising official, Don Van Massenhoven, not long after the game. “In their judgement, the infraction and its result merited a major penalty.”
With all due respect to Van Massenhoven and the officiating crew involved, the above statement reads more like an attempt to protect the necks of all disciplinarians involved in this game. By now, there is enough evidence to support the notion that this call was an epic screwup. It cost the Golden Knights the game, as well as an amazing new fan base the chance for more playoff excitement.
Now, the NHL has acknowledged its failing moment here to the Golden Knights. Subsequently, the two officials on the ice for this game, Dan O’Halloran and Eric Furlatt, will seemingly not ref another playoff game this season.
Considering the magnitude of this blown call, the debate has begun as to whether or not major penalties should be subject to video review before signed off on. Had any of the officials genuinely seen the play unfold, they’d have realized Eakin’s actions weren’t excessive or dangerous in any matter. Unfortunately for Pavelski, he just fell victim to a bad bounce.
I do not believe video replay should be instituted for every little thing. That said, if you can review a possible offside after a goal, you should be able to review the validity of a major penalty. Both instances, as any hockey fan knows, can have a major impact on a team’s game, series, and in the Golden Knights’ case, season.
Yes, it may be tricky to start reviewing judgment calls made by officials. However, when viewed in regular speed or slow motion, it’s clear Eakins didn’t do anything malicious here. Could he have been given two minutes for interference? Of course. Should he have been given five and a game? No chance.
In the playoffs, there’s no room for error by anyone. With that being the case, the National Hockey League needs to get with the times and create a review policy capable of placing an in-game microscope on events that unfairly tip the ice in one direction or another.
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