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In the second period of the Senators/Devils game, Damien Brunner slashed the stick out of Jared Cowen's hands and flipped it away, giving himself a clear break on the net. No call. And it resulted in a goal! This should be painfully obvious to call!
Is there anything to suggest why this wasn't called?
As Rule 61 (Slashing) suggests; any forceful or powerful chop with the stick on or near the opponent's hands that, in the judgment of the Referee, is not an attempt to play the puck, shall be penalized as slashing.
More specifically to the play you question, Rule 56.2 (Interference) clearly states that a minor penalty shall be imposed on a player who knocks a stick out of an opponent's hand! It is an infraction that is routinely called by the refs and always expected by the players. As you suggest Alex, this should be a painfully obvious call; but only perhaps if it's viewed from the open side or a correct angle.
While Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean had a clear sightline and perfect angle from the bench to see Damien Brunner chop the stick out of Jared Cowen's hand, referee Dennis LaRue was positioned on the opposite side of the ice and practically parallel to the play. From this disadvantaged position, one the referee was stuck in by not backpedaling quickly enough once the play developed, he was forced to look through the bodies of both Brunner and Cowen with no angle on the infraction.
A lack of detection and reaction most likely resulted from this poor sightline. Perhaps the fact that Jared Cowen only had one hand on his stick and did not appear to maintain a position of strength in advance of a puck battle with Brunner gave LaRue the impression (from his perspective) that a penalty was unwarranted on the play. Whatever the reason, LaRue's perception of the play became a reality when he did not raise his arm and assess an interference penalty to Damien Brunner.
Paul MacLean also had a better sightline on another undetected infraction earlier in the game that resulted in Reid Boucher scoring his first NHL goal to give the Devils a 2-0 lead at 12:08 of the opening period. On a Devils breakout from deep inside their end zone, Michael Ryder tripped Joe Corvo from behind just inside the Devils blue line eliminating the Senator forward from the back-check. If you freeze the wide camera shot the instant Ryder took down Corvo, you will see young referee Trent Knorr standing in the corner and staring back behind the goal line. All five Devils skaters were in motion ahead of the referee's fixed sightline back toward an area where no visual coverage was required. The perfectly executed trip by Michael Ryder went undetected by the rookie referee allowing Ryder to set up Boucher's first goal with an additional assist to Eric Gelinas.
On these two missed infractions that resulted in goals, neither Referee adjusted their position, sightline or focus of attention quickly enough as the play develop. A referee must read the play in advance with his head on a swivel and utilize rapid eye movement to set the up 'chess board' in anticipation of future moves. There is no doubt the great players develop an uncanny field of vision in spite of the speed of the game. The same skill can and must be developed by the refs.
I often felt that a complaining coach had the absolute worst perspective on a play gained from standing behind his players' bench. Coach Paul MacLean disproved my theory in last night's Sens loss to the Devils in what he would probably also describe as two painfully obvious missed calls!