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I am sitting here watching the remainder of the Bruins and Habs game.
You have said on numerous occasions that referees do not decide games or in this case, series. Was that the case with Game 7?
I have many calls that we could discuss but I only want to ask about the one called against Boston with 4:31 left in the game. Did that call not decide the series?
That was an interference call, however to be fair, let's sit and review the game. Can you tell me that throughout the game(s) it was fair and the calls were fair? They let so much go and then make calls like snow on the goalie's shoulder! When was the last time that was called? Definitely not in a Game 7!
First, the Montreal Canadiens were the better team on this night and deserved the win and the series. The Bruins were tight and out of sync throughout most of Game 7.
If you look at the penalty called by referee Dave Jackson on Johnny Boychuk with 4:31 remaining in regulation time it is fair to determine that by the letter of the law interference was committed once Boychuk built a bridge with his stick and shoved Bournival to the ice shortly after the puck was chipped through the neutral zone. There is also some argument to make that since Bournival did not alter his path to get outside Boychuk, but instead skated a stride or two directly into the Bruins defender that contact was inevitable and no harm, no foul - resulted 130 feet from the Bruins net. Whatever you believe to be most accurate is your prerogative.
I want to focus my attention on how this specific call, with the score 2-1 and 4:31 remaining in Game 7, fit into the overall standard that the refs employed throughout the game. When I do that, it is only reasonable to conclude there were too many inconsistencies to deem this a penalty at that particular time in the game. Before I explain why I believe this to be true I want to provide some background on how the officials prepare for a game of this nature and the assignment process.
When approaching any playoff game, especially a deciding game or Game 7, it is vital that the officiating crew be well prepared mentally and physically. In this case, that process would actually begin at least a day before the game when the officials left home and travelled to Boston (they might have also anticipated or even been assigned to Game 7 prior to Game 6 being played in Montreal. In any event they would have likely watched that game closely on television). While the officials are responsible for their personal preparation and readiness, the series supervisor (in this case, Kris King) also has some responsibility to get the crew mentally prepared in a meeting he conducts at noon on the day of the game.
He, of course, can't work the game for them so his job is more like that of a coach and motivator.
Selecting the officials assigned to the game is the direct responsibility of Stephen Walkom, V.P. of Officiating based on his evaluation process and that of his supervisors and Hockey Operations. Referee Dan O'Rourke has been selected to work the Stanley Cup Final on a couple of occasions. Dave Jackson returned to playoff assignments this season under Stephen Walkom after not participating in the playoffs from 2010-13 under boss Terry Gregson.
The first period was crucial for the referees to set an acceptable standard and tone that hopefully the players would respond to and could be consistently applied throughout the game. From almost the opening puck drop key decisions were made on calls and non-calls that made this objective almost impossible to be maintained and achieve success. On the very first shift, Brad Marchand caught Michael Bournival with a high-stick to the head just inside the Montreal blue line that went un-penalized.
Marchand then received the first penalty at 6:18 of the game for goalie interference assessed by referee Jackson. On this play, it was Andrei Markov of the Canadiens that cross-checked Marchand in the neck and caused the Bruins player to fall through the crease and contact Carey Price. The first penalty call is often crucial to set the standard and this one clearly sent the wrong message.
At approximately 9:48 of the first period, Reilly Smith was given a rough ride with an obvious leg/stick trip takedown in front of the Habs net by Josh Gorges as Price caught on incoming puck. The same referee was once again in good position to see the play but chose not to call this tripping/interference infraction. At the other end of the ice, Zdeno Chara received a holding penalty following a puck battle with Rene Bourque against the boards where some detainment was exerted by Chara and a quick call resulted from Dan O'Rourke. These decisions set a difficult standard for the referees to maintain as it appeared the game was being worked differently from end of the ice to the other.
It only took seven seconds into the second period when Brad Marchand was whistled for stopping hard at the crease and penalized for a snow-shower on Habs goalie Price. These calls are typically something that needs to be addressed early in a series and not in game seven. It would be at this juncture that some "game management" as I described in yesterday's column could be used to the ref's advantage. Then at 17:06, David Krejci had his lower glove hand slashed by Lars Eller on the back-check as Krejci was attempting to redirect a centering pass from Torey Krug. Krejci had words with referee Jackson when no call was made.
So now we move to the Johnny Boychuk interference penalty that was called with 4:31 remaining in regulation time of Game 7. Given all of the above events, plus the fact that Bournival did not attempt to skate around Boychuk in addition to some embellishment on the play, it would have been the appropriate time for the referee to keep his arm down and allow the play to continue.