A Post, A Bounce, A Call . . .
For 50 minutes of hockey, the Bluejackets did everything I indicated they should do in my game preview — they checked, they kept the New Jersey forwards at the perimeters, possessed the puck in the offensive zone, stayed out of the box, and got timely saves from Mason. It was a chess match, with most of the game played against the boards and in the neutral zone. While the Devils had the better of the first few shifts of the game, the balance of power shifted to the CBJ side and pretty much stayed there. The CBJ goal was a beautiful setup from Huselius to Malhotra, who made a perfect 5 hole shot.
First, Tyutin fires a laser from the point that rockets off the right post. That would have been a 2 -0 lead, and the fabric of the game would have changed. Then, with 10:00 minutes left in the third, Dorsett takes a dumb tripping penalty in the neutral zone. The faceoff is won by Malhotra, who feeds it right to Umberger. Umberger moves to clear, and whiffs. Actually, it would have been better had he whiffed. Instead, he catches just enough of the puck to send it bouncing meekly into the left slot, where Zajac fires it past a helpless Mason, just 6 seconds into the power play.
Finally, we come to the call, which will consume most of the conversation until the Vancouver game on Sunday. With just under 9:00 left, the puck is being battled over by Tyutin, Clarkson, Methot and Madden. Clarkson takes Tyutin down, then falls on top of him. No call. Clarkson gets up, takes the puck around the net, to Mason’s right side, to try a wraparound. Mason gets over to the post and stops the shot. Koharski (the only referree at this point) is perched on goal line next to the boards at the opposite side. He starts skating along the goal line, looking as if he is looking for the puck. Although most fans think Mason has the puck frozen, it is actually between his legs. Methot at this point is tangled up with Clarkson, causing the near post to tip. Koharski has angled back below the goal line, still apparently looking for the puck. Tyutin is in front, Mason is sliding over, the puck still between his legs. Madden comes around from the opposite post and makes contact with the puck, then knocks the far post off. Koharski is looking at the puck the entire time, and signals goal. Toronto finds the video inconclusive, and the rest is history.
First, let me reiterate my position that the rules governing review by Toronto need to be changed, made uniform and be applied evenly. However, that was not really at issue here. What was at issue was the fact that Koharski was alone. Toronto should have expanded review responsibilities when that happens, as a single referee cannot have his eyes everywhere. However, from the overhead and other angles I have reveiwed (and I just spend 40 minutes doing it), here is what I see:
1. Clarkson took down Tyutin, then laid on top of him. Koharski was below the goal line at this point, staring straight at the play. No excuse for not calling holding or interference – take your pick.
2. The puck was not frozen by Mason after Clarkson’s attempt, so it was still alive. However, at this point Koharski is far to the other side of the goal, and from his actions seemingly cannot see the puck. You can see him ducking his head, then ultimately dipping below the goal line for a better view. He should have been closer to the play from the outset, and arguably should have blown the whistle if he could not see the puck. On the other hand, a single referee is probably not going to blow the whistle as readily for a puck being out of view, as that would likely disrupt the game.
3. The near post starts to tip when Methot hits it as he is tangled up with Clarkson. While the CBJ fan in me would like to say that Clarkson pushed him into the post, to be honest it really looks like Methot was the intiator of the contact.
4. The overhead is unclear as to whether the other post comes off before the puck crosses the line. It shimmies, then appears to settle, then goes off, apparently in response to contact from Madden after the shot. Koharski’s eyes are focused on the puck at this point, and neither the standard view or the overhead is definitive about the sequence.
Bottom line is that, while the goal probably should not have happened, due to the fact that Clarkson should have been in the box, the goal itself was something that you could call any way and find justification in the film. It is a shame, though, that the deciding goal in a well played game had to be determined this way. However, I am not dusting off the Toronto conspiracy articles yet.
Give tons of credit to Weekes in goal for New Jersey. He made some great saves, robbing Torres, Huselius and Williams at various times. He won the game for them.
+/- for the night:
+ Hitch-Hockey — The team really played it the way we wanted it drawn up on the chalkboard. They had energy, attention to detail, few mistakes. They frustrated two of the best forward lines in hockey. Mason had some nice saves. A post, a bounce, a call (and 1 dumb penalty).
+ Possession — Again, we were able to consume vast amounts of time with the puck in the offensive zone. Even though we had no power play goals, it was a revelation to watch Williams work with the others. You could see improvement each of the three power plays.
+ Individuals — Huselius, Malhotra, Russell were all very consistent and good at both ends. Williams showed a lot in his first game as a Jacket. He has a big shot, good sense, and better movement than I expected. Filatov did a lot of little things, and Modin was solid. Methot did not have one of his better games, as he seemed indecisive all night, both with the puck and in his defensive reactions.
-Cashing In — This was the difference in the game. Sure, NJ scored on a blown clearing pass, and then on a flluke goal, but we kept them in the game by not converting. Credit to their goalie, for sure, but we also just missed some open chances.
A tough loss, but one against a very good team. No need to dwell on this one, as it was really a well played game, with very few mistakes on either side. Not a momentum killer or one that should have anyone scratching their heads. This was one of those weird hockey games, which we should have guessed when the referee slipped and left the game (shoulder injury–a repetetive problem for him).
Time to get on the plane and continue our great play against the Canadian teams. Let’s get to Luongo before he gets hot!