Alas, the poor Colorado Avalanche. Just when things are starting to look okay for them, a bad call turns the momentum around, things snowball and they are knocked back down.
Such was the case against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday. Halfway through the third period, the Avalanche were up 3-1. Then, Jonathan Toews scored. The Avalanche would challenge that the Blackhawks were offside prior to the goal being scored. Judge for yourself.
— Cristiano Simonetta (@CMS_74_) March 20, 2017
Now, I haven’t worn the zebra stipes of a referee or linesman since college, and never did so at anything close to the NHL level; but come on. I can still call a spade a spade. The officials upheld the goal and then the NHL reaffirmed their decision, stating:
“Review was not conclusive in determining whether Toews tagged up at the instant the Puck was on Richard Panik‘s stick when Chicago entered the attacking zone prior to the goal. According to Rule 78.7, ‘If a review is not conclusive and/or there is any doubt whatsoever as to whether the call on the ice was correct, the On-Ice Official(s) will be instructed to confirm their original call.'”
Richard Panik had control of the puck, in the offensive zone, before Toews got onside. If watching closely, 98 out of 100 linesmen would have called that offside. Here is the first line of the rule, as written, in the NHL rulebook.
Rule 83 – Off-side
83.1 Off-side – Players of the attacking team must not precede the puck into the attacking zone.
The NHL’s justification that the puck wasn’t on Panik’s stick when Toews tagged up is simply a convenient justification of their mistake. Though wood may not have been touching rubber, he was clearly in possession of the puck.
Now, enough complaining. The call was unfortunate, but every official gets the occasional call wrong. The justification was laughable, but was that goal really the reason the Avalanche lost? I don’t think so.
Sure, you can argue that it was the catalyst, but the NHL cannot be blamed for the lack of mental toughness shown by the Avalanche. The Blackhawks were onside for the three goals that were scored over the next 3:02.
The Blackhawks won because they were the better team during the second half of the final frame, plain and simple. The game mattered more to them, and they played like it. The Avalanche were outshot in every period (14-9 in the third). After that Toews goal especially, they were irresponsible with the puck and left goaltender Jeremy Smith out to dry.
The Blackhawks deserved to win the game, which they did 6-3. You can argue that the Avalanche fell apart after the controversial call, but that’s on them, not the officials.