Just Dead Wrong
Hard to believe four experienced NHL officials could get a call so wrong.
Did the misguided first period expulsion of defenceman Niklas Kronwall from Game 3 of the Western Conference final on Friday night between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks decide the game? No, but it sure changed it, particularly since the Wings were already without star forward Pavel Datsyuk in a game won by the Hawks that ensured this year's Stanley Cup final will begin no earlier than June 5.
But in a playoff season in which the NHL has gotten so many calls wrong time after time, Kronwall's was arguably the worst miscarriage of justice outside the inexplicable non-suspension of Carolina forward Scott Walker for his goon sucker punch on Boston's Aaron Ward.
Who actually made the call? What was the explanation? The NHL needs to explain itself on this one. And apologize for screwing up so badly.
Kronwall, arguably the best hitter in the sport today, caught Chicago's Martin Havlat with a crushing blow just inside the Blackhawk blueline as Havlat tried to control a loose puck that was clearly in his skates.
Kronwall's elbow was down, and Havlat was knocked cold.
As Hockey Night in Canada pointed out so expertly with video evidence, neither referee put his hand up on the play to signal a penalty. Then, out of thin air, Kronwall was banished from the game with a five-minute interference major and game misconduct, a preposterous call.
The Wings killed it off and, after falling behind 3-0, fought back to force overtime before losing. Would Kronwall have made a difference there? Maybe, and having to play the entire game with five defencemen probably wore the Detroit blueliners down.
But there was just no need for the call. Even worse, clearly one of the on-ice officials simply made it up after seeing Havlat on the ice and deciding something illegal must have happened without actually seeing a foul. It wasn't even close to interference because Havlat was in possession of the puck, and so the play wasn't remotely like the late, blindside hit by Anaheim's Mike Brown on Detroit's Jiri Hudler in the previous round.
Sorry that Havlat got hurt, but hockey's a contact sport and Kronwall's hit was absolutely clean.
What a screwup by four officials who should be reprimanded for such an egregious error in a playoff game of that magnitude.