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Last night I was focused on the Flyers come-from-behind win over the Red Wings on NBCSN but also kept ‘half an eye' on the Montreal Canadiens frantic 4-3 shootout win over the New Jersey Devils via NHL Game Center Live on my computer screen.
We have a number of questions involving two separate plays from the Canadiens-Devils game and both plays highlight the full concentration and split-second decisions required of a referee as he attempts to make the correct ruling. Obtaining the best sightline in advance is critical to correctly process information to make the right call.
The first play in question was when Montreal's Max Pacioretty was on a breakaway and had the shaft of his stick break as trailing defender Jon Merrill attempted a wild desperation stick swing at the attacker (Incident can be seen at 1:50 of attached highlights). I ran back in front of the television from my kitchen during an NBC intermission when I heard initial commentary that a stick slash had broken Pacioretty's stick on a breakaway. I rounded the corner just in time to catch a glimpse of a replay showing the wild swing by Merrill coincide with the snap of Pacioretty's stick shaft. No call resulted on the play and the initial commentary suggested a call was missed.
I thought “oh no”, another missed stick slash on breakaway similar to one I viewed last week. Unaware of the time in the game this play had occurred I immediately sent out an S.O.S. via twitter; “Anybody see the broken-stick slash on a breakaway in NJ. Another non-penalty shot call. Guess they don't make sticks like they used to?”
In the rush for social media assistance my misplaced question mark (?) logically appeared to some as though I was stating a call had been missed as opposed to seeking guidance. Once I was able to finally view the play it was obvious that Jon Merrill's stick clearly missed making contact with both Max Pacioretty and his stick shaft. When Max pressured down on the shaft his stick simply broke. Both referee Rob Martell, who had set up in perfect position to judge the play on the ice, and Ray Ferraro on the TSN broadcast from between the benches made the right call. Both men had the perfect sightline.
The other play in question involved a pretty obvious trip/slew-foot by P.K. Subban that took down Patrik Elias just prior to David Desharnais tipping in Brian Gionta's shot for the tying goal with just 36.6 seconds remaining (Incident can be seen at 1:33 of attached highlights). What wasn't so obvious on the play was that Elias set an illegal pick in an attempt to lockup up Subban and prevent his forecheck pinch with the Montreal net empty. With 44 seconds remaining Peter Budaj bolted to the bench for an extra attacker. In anticipation of this the trailing referee crossed the ice from his position near the Montreal players' bench to appropriately observe the legal five-foot substitution required to replace Budaj. That was all well and good, save the fact that both referees were now on the same side of the ice; opposite to where Elias and Subban contacted one another resulting in two separate infractions.
Had the trailing referee been afforded the opportunity to observe this play from his normal position (near blue line on players' bench side) I am confident an arm would have been raised for a delayed penalty call once Patrik Elias leaned into Subban and then placed his stick across the midsection of the Habs' star defenceman. Interference would have been the delayed call.
Play would then quickly have been stopped once Subban, having been blocked by the illegal pick, extended his right skate behind the left leg of Elias and tripped the Devil player to the ice with a sneaky but obvious slew-foot. Coincidental minor penalties would have been assessed and Gionta's shot would not have eventually found the back of the net on the Desharnais redirection.
Gaining the best sightline is crucial in being able to accurately process information on every play. Sometimes that just isn't possible.
As a result of the shootout win Subban and the Montreal Canadiens have to be very pleased this was just one of those times.