By Allan Muir
Here’s the problem with leaving your playoff fate in the hands of another team: Anything can happen.
Usually that means the other team that’s battling you for a spot draws on its own desperation to win and knock you out. Or the team they’re playing might not be fully inspired to carry your flag.
And sometimes the game can be taken out of their hands completely.
That seemed to be the case on Saturday night for Columbus, which needed the Colorado Avalanche to take care of the Minnesota Wild. The Avs seemed to be on their way to getting the job done when Chuck Kobasew scored to give them a 2-1 lead in the second period. The deep official, Brad Watson, immediately signaled goal. Still, it was clear though to anyone watching that the puck went in off Kobasew’s skate and would probably head upstairs for review.
But here’s where it gets weird. I’ll let the Big Redhead, SI.com’s own Adrian Dater, take it away:
According to Avs coach Joe Sacco and to Avs TV color analyst Peter McNab – who did a superb job describing all this down on the ice between the benches – the Avs’ bench was told by referees that the call on the ice was “no goal.” But it was clearly, unless all of our eyes deceived us, called “good goal” by Watson.
How did it get called “no goal” on the ice, when Watson clearly called it a good goal? The other referee in the game was Francois St. Laurent. Did he call it “no goal” and therefore his opinion carried the day? If so, he wasn’t the ref closest to the goal. Watson was.
When the tally was overturned by Watson – looking a bit sheepish in doing so – Sacco said he was told that because it was ruled no goal originally, it was too inconclusive to overturn. Instead of a 2-1 Avs lead and maybe a panic job from there by the skidding Wild, Minnesota got the break — an opportunity to feel good and regroup — and went on to win the game, 3-1.
If the Avs had gone to overtime, let’s say, and won there or in a shootout, the Columbus Blue Jackets would be in the playoffs and the Wild would be out.
Look, to be perfectly clear, this call did not cost the Jackets their shot at the postseason. Remember that brutal start that they authored all on their own? That they were in last place overall in the NHL on March 1 before they clawed their way back into contention? That, right there, is why they are clearing out their lockers on Monday. Not a bizarre call half a continent away.
But you have to believe the Jackets were livid after they saw Watson, one of the league’s most experienced and respected officials, apparently pull this absurd about-face.
More from Dater:
I emailed Mike Murphy, the NHL’s senior VP for hockey operations, who often works in the video room in Toronto, and this is what he said about the situation:
“The call from the ice that was given to us on the headsets was NO GOAL…..Watson pointed to signal that the puck was IN the net….he then consulted with the other officials on the ice and the consensus among the officials on the ice was that the puck was kicked into the net therefore the call on the ice was NO GOAL….we reviewed the play and determined that Kobasew’s right skate kicked the puck into the net thus agreeing with the call made on the ice.”
Now Murphy has to go with what he’s told. If the on-ice officials tell him they called no-goal, even though the video they’re reviewing shows otherwise, that’s what he works with. And if he decides that the video doesn’t show cause for reversing that call, then he’s done his job.
But Watson? Geez, man, that’s just brutal.
Tough break for the Jackets, but again, they had their chances to take care of business during the first two months of the season and they failed. Bad call or not, this one’s on them.