As a big sports fan I’m still amazed by the amount of times I can watch a game or a highlight, see something weird or different and say, ‘I’ve never seen that before’. Sometimes I do mistakenly think you’ve seen just about everything. Then a game like tonight happens and you realize the error of that thought. If you haven’t seen what happened in the third period tonight, trust me you know there’s a rant coming…but I’ll get to that later.
I’ve been derelict in writing lately, in part because of all the Western Canada late games, because of the fact that for one reason or another I haven’t actually been to a game since our home game with the Canucks nearly three weeks ago – and also in part cause I’ve been tapering off the every game recap though I am making a Thanksgiving resolution to be more engaged with the NHL season now that MLB’s long over with and my NFL season’s just about over and at least try to write once a week. And really for the most part this Devil team deserves more attention anyway. Even after a bad trip which they barely salvaged with a win in Vancouver after terrible losses in Calgary (what else is new?) and Edmonton. For an additional sweetener, tonight’s game was the return of franchise icon Patrik Elias to the lineup after not having played in the first quarter of the season due to a knee injury.
Needless to say I was looking forward to getting back to the Prudential Center after the long road trip and having to miss going to the Penguin romp two weeks ago because of my illness that I’ve probably gotten an infection from and still have a touch of a cough/mucus issue. With the holiday tomorrow tonight was the rare weekday game that felt like a weekend one (even if I still have to work on Friday). I was already agitated after the first period though when the Devils did their best New York Jets impression and just flat didn’t show up for the opening twenty minutes, being outshot 14-2 at one point by the Blue Jackets who are making a mad dash back into the playoff hunt under old nemesis John Tortorella. Still, after Columbus beat us handily at the Rock last month for its first win of the season you’d think the Devils would have come out better than they did to begin the game. Being down only 1-0 was a godsend after some great goaltending by Cory Schneider kept the team in a game they didn’t deserve to be in but the non-effort to begin the game was annoying enough.
Finally during the second period the team played better, tied the game with an Adam Henrique goal and actually held the Blue Jackets without a shot for about the first fifteen minutes of the second period, almost completely turning the tables from Columbus’s first period dominance. Except the Jackets picked their game up again in the final three minutes of the period and regained the lead. The frustrating second period was annoying enough, after dominating a period and still being behind and just to add more insult to annoyance in the final minute of the period the Devils managed to hit a post and a crossbar without scoring. It already felt like it was going to be one of those nights, especially against a team that’s had our number the last few years.
If the first two periods was bad, what happened in the third period took the cake for the night. With a delayed penalty called on Nick Foligno at 8:26 the Devils maintained possession (or so we thought) during a long 6-on-5 – around half a minute long – and finally Henrique managed to score again, tying the game. At least until the goal was disallowed because a whistle ‘should’ have been blown when Gregory Campbell gained enough possession to knock the puck into the corner. Neither ref saw it and no whistle was actually blown but because a linesman saw it suddenly they’re empowered to retroactively reverse a non-call.
Lemme preface this by saying apparently the linesman did get it right on replay, I say apparently because I haven’t seen one replay yet but I’ll trust beat guy Tom Gulutti who says he saw the puck shot into the corner off on replay and others claim they saw it too. Okay fair enough, and the Devils certainly had enough chances to win that game before and after (of course our ensuing power play was a dud and we had few real chances the rest of the game).
That said, even if you want to argue it was the right result in the end, it clearly happened for the wrong reason. First of all, the NHL doesn’t give the linesman the power to blow a play dead if they see something but they do give them veto power to inform the refs of it after the fact and then allow the refs to change the call retroactively? How does that make sense exactly? Either let the linesmen have the ability to blow a play dead (which they already have in other instances such as a high stick or a major penalty) or don’t allow retroactive reversals of judgement calls at all outside of the coach’s challenge. Cause really that’s what this was, a judgement call. Yes it might have been a correct judgement call in this case but it could easily have been wrong as any number of other calls were in this game, starting with the Ryan Murray elbow in the first period that nearly knocked Kyle Palmeri into December and gave him a welt above his eye.
Second of all, all refs interpret the possession rule differerently anyway. Some blow it dead on a touch, others are more stringent on what constitutes possession. There’s just no consistency to begin with, why add yet another variable to the process? Another thing is why weren’t the Devils allowed to review it? Granted, they wouldn’t have won the review anyway but still other judgement calls can be challenged including offsides, why couldn’t this be challenged? And finally, something just doesn’t sit right with allowing play to continue then reversing it. What if some injury had happened? Or if another penalty had happened would that have been wiped off the books too just because the play should have been dead? This just doesn’t pass the sniff test for me. I wouldn’t be allowed to retroactively change rules or a lineup in my fantasy leagues. I can’t even get away with changing a result or a call during a video game, but the NHL can do it in real life. For perhaps the final insult, the refs apparently never corrected the clock for the extra ten seconds or so that ran off between when Campbell touched the puck and when the goal was ‘scored’. Among other things that could have made a difference in the end. But why bother to correct something obvious when you’re debating a judgement call?
In any case what’s done is done and the Devils have lost three of four going into a post-weekend home and home with a hot Canadiens team that just whipped the Rangers 5-1, although they will be without Vezina goaltender Carey Price who left that game due to injury tonight and will miss both games this weekend. Not only are the Devils slumping but they’ve had a big hand in getting the Blue Jackets back in the playoff hunt, now that they’re seven points back of the second wild card. My fearless prediction (as much as I don’t like Tort) is that all the John Hynes for Jack Adams awards we’ve been reading in November will be replaced by the John Tortorella for Jack Adams ones in December.