May 29, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard (35) gives up the game-winning goal to Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook (not pictured) in overtime in game seven of the second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center. The Blackhawks won 2-1 to win the series four games to three. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
Astoria, NY – The NHL almost had a riot on its hands last night, as the result of the Detroit Red Wings-Chicago Blackhawks series was very nearly decided in the manner both league executives and hockey fans dread: a blown call by the referees.
In a postseason that has seen high quality play too often overshadowed by poor officiating, fans of the NHL were subjected to yet another questionable call in last night’s Game7 between the Wings and the Hawks, one that could have decided the fate of both teams.
Referee Stephen Walkom waved off what appeared to be the game-winning goal by Chicago’s Niklas Hjalmarsson after assessing coincidental minor penalties behind the play. The crowd didn’t realize the call had been made until the United Center public address announcer relayed the [disappointing] news.
Perhaps it’s a good thing that officials don’t wear their last names on their jerseys anymore.
Then again, the prevalence of iPhones in the crowd probably allowed the fans to look up Walkom’s name, career statistics and family history in the minutes following the call, so I guess the point is moot.
Credit the Chicago faithful with reacting appropriately in the situation; fans didn’t shower the ice with debris, but merely settled for mercilessly booing the referees and engaging in one of the postseason’s better “BULL SH–T” chants.
(As Islanders fans, the EYES staff can appreciate what one of those chants sounds like in person, as well as the circumstances that prompt the fans to engage in one.)
Walkom is widely considered one of the NHL’s best officials – hence his assignment to last night’s game – but a miscue on his part nearly wrote his name into history.
Instead of preparing Walkom’s eulogy today, though, writers across the country are tasked with putting the call in perspective. Since the Blackhawks won the game, it will likely be relegated to a footnote in the box score – or the memories of those who watched the game live – which is right where it belongs.
If the day comes when a call like that makes it into the game recap’s headline, the NHL will definitely have that aforementioned riot on its hands.
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Floating Around The Twitter-Sphere
If you’re watching the NBA playoffs instead of the NHL postseason, you’re doing it wrong. The drama, pressure and excitement of the action in the hockey games each and every night far outpaces what is put on display by basketball. This isn’t an opinion; it’s a fact.
Now that the Blackhawks have dispatched the Red Wings, the four teams left standing in the 2012-13 NHL playoffs are the last four Stanley Cup Champions. As far as the league is concerned, this is one of the best possible outcomes: four marquee franchises in four major television markets. The NHL should prepare itself for extremely high broadcast ratings across both the Conference and Stanley Cup Finals.
Nik wasn’t the only one to have his Twitter feed inundated with hockey tweets during last night’s Red Wings-Blackhawks Game 7, which is a great sign for the NHL. The league is back, and despite suffering an embarrassing lockout to start the year, interest in this season’s playoff games appears higher than ever. (Furthermore, I think everyone has a few fan friends who have recently converted to the NHL: I know I do.)
This is it, a tweet that accurately sums up the fan reaction to what might have gone down as the worst officiating call in the history of the NHL playoffs. As far as I can remember, there hasn’t been a call of that magnitude in the postseason. I shudder to think about what today’s NHL narrative would have been if Detroit had won last night’s game.
Last Night In The NHL
Detroit Red Wings vs. Chicago Blackhawks (CHI 4-3)
The Blackhawks prevailed in last night’s Western Conference Semifinal against the Red Wings, 2-1 in overtime. Chicago shrugged off what was ruled a surprising no-goal in the closing minutes of regulation before winning in the extra frame, as the referees again made their presence felt in all the wrong ways.
A slap shot by Niklas Hjalmarsson hit the back of the net behind Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard with less than two minutes remaining in the third period, sending the United Center crowd into a frenzy; it was only after the lights stopped flashing and the goal song was abruptly cut off that the fans realized the goal had been disallowed.
Behind the play – and prior to Hjalmarsson’s shot – there had been a scuffle along boards near the team benches, resulting in matching minor penalties to Brandon Saad and Kyle Quincey and nullifying the goal.
And although the moment was deflating for fans of the Blackhawks, the team rallied to advance to the Western Conference Finals on the strength of Brent Seabrook’s wrist shot at 3:35 of overtime. Seabrook carried the puck into the offensive zone and beat Howard to the glove side on a shot that glanced off of Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall.
The Hawks will face the Los Angeles Kings – who are appearing in their second consecutive Western Conference Finals – starting on Saturday at 5:00 p.m. ET.
Howard with yet another big stop in the postseason…
Seabrook sends the Hawks to the Conference Finals…
Be on the lookout for upcoming pieces from the EYES staff later today: one on the aftermath of the John Tortorella firing and another previewing the Vezina Trophy race.
As always, thanks for reading us at EyesOnIsles. Keep it right here for all of your NHL playoff coverage and Isles offseason news. Be sure to check the menu bar at the top of the page for ways to connect with the EyesOnIsles staff, as we’re always happy to talk hockey.