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Fraser: A look at Tuesday's officiating in Sens-Blues game

Kerry Fraser
2/5/2014 3:06:08 PM
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Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at cmonref@tsn.ca.

Kerry,

Sorry to say, but in two of the last three Senators games it's blatantly obvious who the referees are pulling for. Calling penalties on Milan Michalek for grabbing a guy after the St. Louis Blues did it for two full periods without a call and then that horrible call on Bobby Ryan for holding his stick the proper way and Steen obviously skating into it. Terrible officiating and it's obvious to us fans watching on TV. I'm getting to the point of shutting it off completely and trying basketball, where I know they will call terrible penalties but on both teams!

Dr. Adam Hoirch

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Hi Kerry,

I was curious about if referees review their own calls/non calls in the intermission. In watching the Ottawa/St. Louis game last night I have to say there were some calls that seemed unwarranted against the Senators and some non-calls against for the Blues that seemed to be blatant. I've seen games where it appears the refs give a soft call to the team that has been wrongly punished, but that wasn't the case last night. With the Blues getting over nine minutes of power play time including a full two minutes of 5-on-3 while the Senators got only 37 seconds of total power play time it is hard to imagine any attempt was made to balance unfair or missed calls.

Do the refs really try to make amends for errors or do they just forge on?

Cheers,
Scott

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Bobby Ryan received an elbowing penalty in the first period of the Ottawa-St. Louis game. Alex Steen ran into Ryan. Can you explain what Ryan did wrong?

Thanks,
Greg Moffatt

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Hi,

Many have probably heard of the Senators vs. Blues game. It was pretty obvious all the calls were one-sided, at a point that I was expecting a supervisor coming down during the intermission and talking to the guys.

The Senators were called on cases were the Blues did exactly the same thing, on multiple occasions, with the ref right there smiling with both hands down. As a Senators fan and hockey fan, I felt for the first time betrayed. This game was controlled and it made me so mad! My Twitter account went crazy! Fans were all on the same page, they all felt sick to their stomach.

What is going on against the Senators? The Pittsburgh and St. Louis games were really weird.

Example of identical play on both side were the Senators were in the box and not the Blues:

- High stick
- Crosscheck
- Tripping
- Roughing (I guess) on Michalek for coming on after the whistle and grabbing a Blues player from behind (which was done all night)
- Misconduct to MacArthur because he too had enough of this circus!

Last night, the Senators won against the Blues and the Refs.

Please looks at the game and comment...it's weird!

Cheers,
Jean-Francois Labonte

---

Hi Mr. Fraser,

To be blunt: what are the repercussions for bad referees, and what do you think the league can do to minimize games turning on bad calls in the future?

Context: I'm a very angry Ottawa Senators fan.

We recently lost a game in part because of a blown boarding call against the Leafs and nearly lost a game against the Blues where the Blues had seven power plays and the Sens had one power play.

I'll spare you most of the details of the Blues game, but it was the worst officiated game I've ever seen. It included a comically bad call against Bobby Ryan for 'elbowing' a player who skated into his arm while Ryan was looking away and playing a puck on the boards. A ten-minute misconduct against Clarke MacArthur for, what I gather, saying something to the referee that the referee did not like.

As far as I'm concerned, good referees aren't just being fair, they look like they're being fair.  In a well-officiated game, all of the fans – win or lose - leave believing the players decided the game, not the referees. If that doesn't happen, everyone loses.

What do you think?

Yours truly,
Anthony Moffatt

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Hi Kerry,

Doing my best not to wear Sens-coloured glasses, I still am shocked at what I believe to be a display of inconsistent and at times downright incompetent officiating by the referees in Ottawa's game at St. Louis on Tuesday night.

Despite the Sens winning the game I can't help but feel uncomfortable with officiating like that in a sport at the professional level. The Senators were assessed 10 penalties to the Blues' three. I am in no way stating that some of these weren't deserved as discipline has been a major issue for them this year, but such a huge discrepancy when clearly the Blues were up to antics of their own (it seemed like there was a scrum after every whistle) is very disappointing. The fact that the Blues failed to capitalize on any of their six (seven?) power play chances just added to the feel that Ottawa was in fact playing against the officials and not St. Louis.

What is your opinion on the job the refs did during that game and, knowing how the league protects its refs, is there any channel through which the Senators could possibly launch a formal complaint? It was clear during the game that the team was frustrated by the seemingly unfair parade of white jerseys to the penalty box.

Regards,
Dave Peters

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Dr. Hoirch, Scott, Greg, Jean-Francois, Anthony and Dave: (Almost 1,000 words in the questions alone!)

Since I am not qualified to provide anger management counseling for you, I will instead analyze the game from my area of officiating expertise. If the Ottawa management feels, as each of you does, they can request an official review of the officiating crew's performance presented throughout this game. That performance review must be requested in writing and would be conducted by VP of Officiating Stephen Walkom. His findings would be returned to Senators General Manager Bryan Murray in a written report. Having watched every second from the opening puck drop to the end of the second period and portions of the third period and OT, I find some evidence that Brian might have already requested a formal review.

Here's my analysis. It is not intended to be work of prose but simply a breakdown of calls and missed calls from my perspective.

First Period:

The game began with some negative energy and carryover from their previous meeting on December 16 resulting from a high hit by Zach Smith on Alex Steen. Steen subsequently missed some games with concussion like symptoms.

The first clue of what the refs might have in store came when Ken Hitchcock not only started his fourth line but intended for Ryan Reeves to line up out of his normal position to take the opening draw against Zack Smith

Referee Marc Joannette wisely ejected Reeves prior to the puck drop following some trash talk. That first shift lasted 36 seconds before unsportsmanlike conduct penalties were assessed to both Reeves and Smith.

Given the negative energy I referred to, the referees should have been on high alert to bring the temperature down if and when they deemed it necessary. It was apparent to me that St. Louis Blues were the more aggressive team from the onset. With 13:42 remaining in the first period David Backes took exception to a solid, but legal hit by Chris Neil in the Senators end zone. When play stopped in the Blues zone (13:29 remaining) David Backes initiate a scrum by first grabbing Clarke MacArthur after the whistle and then dropped his gloves and grabbed Kyle Turris. This was a perfect opportunity for the referees to set a good standard on scrums by assessing a single penalty to Blues captain David Backes. This was a key moment in the game when a stand-alone penalty to the Blues should have resulted to address the scrum issue but was not called.

With 4:34 remaining, Kevin Shattenkirk got away with a high hit and charge against Milan Michalek on a play that was signaled for an offside at the Blues' blue line. Shattenkirk travelled a distance, left his feet and made some contact with the head of Michalek. A charging minor was warranted but not called.

With 2:06 remaining in the first, Clarke MacArthur was correctly penalized for tripping when he kicked T.J. Oshie's skates out from behind to take down the Blue player. Even though Sens coach Paul McLean and MacArthur protested, the referee made the right call!

Another correct penalty call by the referee was then assessed to Derek Roy of the Blues with 29 seconds remaining when he grabbed and stretched the jersey of Marc Methot from behind.  

Second Period:

This period was when missed and incorrect penalty calls resulted in frustration for the Senator players, their coach and their fans.

With 17:01 remaining, Kyle Turris cleanly won a Senators end zone faceoff against Alex Steen. Steen then hooked his stick through the left leg of Turris, lifting the leg almost waist high and depositing the Senators player hard to the ice. Steen gave Turris an additional shot once he was down just for good measure! Although nothing was called this was clearly an aggressive trip that should have resulted in a penalty to Steen and resulted in another major scrum taking place. When play stopped 13 seconds later, Turris had words with Steen, punches were exchanged in the scrum. Chris Stewart and Bobby Ryan were assessed coincidental roughing minor penalties. The main event was between Turris and Steen and following the failed tripping call, these two players should have been sent to the penalty box to cool off.

There was a good non-call by referee Joannette during the resulting four on four when Alex Steen grabbed a stretch pass at the Ottawa blue line and went in all alone. Eric Gryba made an excellent, legal defensive stick lift with the referee looking on.

Scrums persisted in rapid-fire that were not addressed by the referees. With 12:02 remaining, Kyle Turris of the Sens pushed the back of Roman Polak's head with force following a stoppage of play in the Blues goal crease. Turris should have received a penalty as the initiator of the scrum that followed. No call was made.

Eric Condra jammed his stick at a puck that was frozen by Jaroslav Halak, resulting in a major scrum where no penalties resulted with 11:42 remaining in the period.

Shortly thereafter (10:24 left) a four player scrum following the stoppage took place that included a couple of heavyweights in Chris Neil and Ryan Reeves. Once again, no penalties were assessed by either referee.
A pattern clearly had developed by this point with the number of non-penalized scrums that had taken place within a relatively short span of time on the game clock.

What can I say about the Bobby Ryan elbowing penalty? In an attempt to put it nicely.

I'll state that Bobby Ryan did not deserve an elbowing penalty on the play when Alexander Steen ran into Ryan's elbow. Penalty calls are rated in three categories: i) Good ii) Marginal and iii) Poor. This call clearly falls into category iii).

The Senators lost their composure (justified or not) and verbally shared their disdain for the referee's call and most likely got personal.

The referees' standard on scrums was somehow was altered at this point in the game when just 5 seconds into the Bobby Ryan elbowing penalty, Patrik Berglund went to the net and lightly bumped Sens goalie Robin Lehner. Milan Michalek was then assessed a roughing penalty, putting the Sens two men short when he grabbed Berglund around the neck from behind to pull the Blues player back from his goalkeeper. No punch or push to the head as witnessed previously but a grab around the neck. The penalty call was an overreaction and completely inconsistent with the standard set to on the multiple scrums that had occurred to this point in the game. Much more aggressive incidents had been committed by players of both teams had not resulted in penalties to this point in the game; especially to place a team at a two man disadvantage. Perhaps there is also a lesson to be learned by the Sens as well regarding their lack of 'anger and frustration management?'

The penalty assessed to Marc Methot with approximately four seconds remaining in the roughing minor to Michalek was justified, once Methot extended his arms and delivered a solid cross-check in the corner to T.J. Oshie. The tripping penalty assessed to Mika Zibanejad on Jay Bouwmeester with 2:59 remaining in the second period was also a 'must call' for the referee to make.

The 'negative energy' that was first initiated by the Blues against the Senators at the start of the game was now clearly being transferred by the Sens toward the refs! Clarke MacArthur's 10 minutes misconduct at the 20:00 minute mark clearly demonstrates the Sens' frustration.

Third Period:

I hope no one would argue with the errant high-stick by Eric Gryba that clipped Brenden Morrow or the free two-handed slash to Morrow's leg before the whistle blew to assess the high-sticking penalty.

What I would point out here is that rather aggressive scrums continued with a couple in the final minute of regulation time. The score was tied and I would expect, as was the case, no penalties resulted. I would have hoped the scrums had been dealt with by the referees in an assertive and appropriate manner in the early going of the game and not through a stand-alone penalty to Milan Michalek that placed his team in a two-man disadvantage.

OT Period:

Regardless of what the player or his coach thought the hooking penalty to Clarke MacArthur when he reached and placed his stick across the arms and body of T.J. Oshie to restrain the Blues forward on a path to the net was absolutely the correct call!

The bottom line is that the Senators persevered and picked up two points in a shootout win. Whether an Official's Performance Review is requested by Bryan Murray, we will most likely never know. Perhaps more important than this, as the Senators move forward, is for coach Paul McLean and his players to review their response to the officiating they received in this game. It can only better prepare them for other emotional situations they might have to overcome in the future. 
   
 

Kerry Fraser

Kerry Fraser


Kerry Fraser is an analyst for the NHL on TSN and That's Hockey 2Nite on TSN2. As one of the league's most recognizable senior referees, he's worked 1,904 NHL regular season games and 261 playoff games during his 37-year career.


Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at cmonref@tsn.ca!


You can also follow Kerry Fraser on Twitter at @kfraserthecall!

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