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I enjoy reading your column - hope you keep it up!
In the final seconds of the third period of the Winnipeg/Montreal game, Brendan Gallagher looked like he was attempting to get back on-side. However, as he was starting to skate back, Al Montoya, Zach Bogosian and Jacob Trouba blatantly interfered with his progress.
If the referee wasn't around, I would have thought that he just missed it. However, this all enfolded in front of a referee. It seemed the ref either purposely wanted the game to be over, sadistically wanted Gallagher to get roughed up, or favoured the Jets to win! Please explain why it wasn't a penalty and what (if any) you would have done differently.
I can assure you that none of the three assertions you made were even remotely part of the referee's mindset or affected his ultimate decision not to assess a penalty against the Jets. Instead, Brendan Gallagher engaged in a losing battle of will with the referee when he attempted to draw a penalty by embellishing the contact with Zach Bogosian (twice) and Al Montoya. Once a referee suspects a player is guilty of embellishing he does not want to be fooled into calling a weak penalty as a result of any theatrical performance.
The battle lines were pretty much drawn at that point when Jacob Trouba came off the Winnipeg bench on a change with Tobias Enstrom. Trouba's most direct route to assume his right defense position from the Jets bench placed him on a collision course with Gallagher, who had just picked himself up off the ice after turning on Bogosian's stick, reaching his hand to the rafters and doing a reverse fall onto his back! No penalty call was forthcoming at that point.
I would have judged the encounters with Bogosian and Montoya no differently than the referee, based on the embellishment that was first initiated by Gallagher behind the Jets net. The next obvious question you will ask is if the referee deemed there was embellishment, then why not assess offsetting penalties? With under a minute to play and the puck dumped down the ice most referees would prefer to let the minor skirmish quickly play itself out and not affect the manpower on the ice when there was no immediate and direct bearing on the play.
That changed in my judgment however, once Jacob Trouba knocked Gallagher to the ice with a slightly buried shoulder and stick placed across the body of the Canadiens 'pin-ball' forward. With the puck in the neutral zone Trouba needed to give way to Gallagher and pass behind the Montreal player to allow him unimpeded exit from the Jets end zone no differently than forward giving way to a D-man backing up at the blue line. That contact by Trouba was deserving of an interference penalty. The previous embellishments clearly witnessed by the referee would certainly cause some doubt as to the legitimacy of any foul committed against Brendan Gallagher so the refs arm remained down.
I ask you to watch the play as objectively as possible and freeze-frame the action at key moments during the battles that took place. You should see Gallagher's hands initiate contact with Bogosian behind the net and the changing body posture of both players throughout the engagement. The final shove by Bogosian should not have caused the net to be pushed in an excessively tipped forward position by Gallagher. During and immediately
following each player confrontation Brendan Gallagher made direct eye contact with the referee, including verbal appeals for a penalty call. It became a failed mission.
Brendan Gallagher had a much more direct route available to him to exit the Jets end zone. He chose a path that ultimately led him into contact with Al Montoya and deep within the goal crease. Following the Montoya elbow push, Gallagher threw his head back excessively and immediately looked at the referee this time and on two more subsequent occasions hoping to see a raised arm. Gallagher's unnatural fall and look back at the ref after tripping over Bogosian's stick completed the trifecta!
Players that embellish on a consistent basis run the risk of not receiving the benefit of the doubt when they are legitimately fouled. Brendan Gallagher is too effective and too good a player to develop that unwanted reputation from the refs.