New York Islanders fans are always in a tight spot when we complain about the refs. It’s impossible to question officiating after a loss and not be accused by fellow fans of whining or making excuses. But last night’s game was an officiating travesty.
In a hard-fought matchup against their crosstown rivals, the New York Islanders lost to the New York Rangers 3-2. Unfortunately, the story was more about the officiating than the play on the ice.
Gordan Bombay preached, ‘Take the fall, act hurt, get indignant!’
This is what the league is in danger of becoming.
Garrett Rank and Justin St.Pierre were last night referees. Between the two of them, they have officiated over 1000 NHL regular-season games! And collectively, they have been awarded eight playoff games (Rank has never officiated a single playoff game).
Before a raucous sell out crowd, it became apparent that the game was too big for them.
At 4:27 of the first Ryan Strome skated to the back wall with Casey Cizikas closely behind. Strome lost his edge on his own accord and collided into the wall as former teammate Cizikas helped cushion his fall. Cizikas got two minutes for tripping.
In the second, Mika Zibanejad pounced on a loose puck in the neutral zone. As he sped through center ice, Devon Toews maintained a near stride for stride pace. Toews leaned on Zibanajed, legally. Toews left hand separated from his stick momentarily but had no bearing on the play.
Rank and St.Pierre saw a hold. Zibanajed made the separation, and we usually see a call there. But was it ever a soft one. Rangers Powerplay.
Later with under five minutes left to go in the second, Jordan Eberle was viciously hit from behind by Ryan Lindgren. Eberle was carted off the ice and immediately went into concussion protocol.
Eberle was prone, defenseless, hit from behind on a play that resulted in injury.
Remind me, what’s a major penalty again?
Rank and St.Pierre rewarded Lindgren for two minutes for cross-checking, and Eberle missed the remainder of the period.
In the third Ryan Pulock in his own zone was called for closing his hand on the puck. Pulock caught the puck in mid-air and made a sweeping motion to get the puck to a teammate in his own zone.
Hockey fans; how many times have you seen an NHL player receive a call like that?
Pulock was a defenseman in his zone looking to make a fluid, legal handpass. I’ve played the game for years, and I’m no NHLer. But I can make that play every time without technically closing my hand on the puck. It’s a legal play. Rank and St. Pierre thought Pulock’s play warranted a call.
At 12:29 of the third, Casey Cizikas received a hook on Panarin. Panarin dove and was also penalized.
With under a minute left, we saw Jesper Fast take the phony play to a new level when he did his best Greg Louganis impersonation. Nearly everyone who has seen that play agrees that Brassard stick was indeed up, but that Fast leaned in to initiate contact and then did a somersault after the touch from Brassard.
In an NHL game at any point, Brassard’s penalty was questionable. But in a tied game, between two rivals, with under a minute left, the official’s call was game-changing. Rank and St.Pierre ignored Fast’s histrionics, and that was egregious and derelict.
The NHL needs to clamp down on this garbage.
If a player embellishes to draw a penalty, did that first penalty really occur? If the league would simply remove the first infraction or provide a double minor for embellishment, you would see garbage tactics like this slowdown or even stop.
Rank, the back referee, who, after four years in the league, has never officiated a playoff game, felt that the Brassard call needed to be made and saw no embellishment on Fast’s part.
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Islander fans can lament about our powerplay. But this was a game that should not have had 20 minutes of total power play time. The Rangers deserved only one, at best two, of their five powerplay chances.
In a game of this importance, how about the NHL ensures experienced, quality referees are assigned?
And how about we let the boys play.