Starting the third period last night the contest with the Minnesota Wild seemed all but over. The Caps had been decimated by injury, looked worn down by their West Coast swing, were down by two, and had no offensive rhythm. And yet there was still plenty of time left for the game to turn. And then the referees inserted themselves into the game by calling what might have been the most pathetic and laughable calls of the season.
When Tom Poti and Alex Ovechkin were whistled for closing their hands on the puck within seconds of one another, the duo of Rob Shick and Chris Ciamaga essentially said "this game is about us and not about the teams playing." They put an undermanned team down 2 players, and the Wild promptly scored to go up by 3. The Wild went on to score again and go up 4-0, and the game looked to be over. And if they had been playing most other teams, the offensively bad pair of calls by the officials wouldn't have mattered.
Most teams can't break through the Wild's suffocating trap and get pucks past rock solid goaltender Niklas Backstrom. But the Caps are not most teams. They roared back in the third and scored not once, not twice, but three times to bring the game to within one. That they could not find the net for a fourth time should not have mattered. They shouldn't have had to.
All human beings make mistakes. Referees are human beings. So it follows that referees can and will make mistakes. That's forgivable. What is not is involving yourself in a game simply for the purpose of involving yourself. Calling obscure delay of game penalties that are practically never enforced not once, not twice, but three times in a game AND TWICE ON THE SAME TEAM WITHIN A MINUTE is grandstanding, plain and simple. And it cost the Capitals a point tonight.
I don't pay for my season tickets to watch referees insert themselves into games. I pay to watch the players. Period. Other than the families of Rob Shick and Chris Ciamaga, I bet every hockey fan feels the same way. And last night's display was an absolute embarrassment.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008