I went to bed last night, hoping that a good sleep would lessen the blow of Game Five’s outcome. It didn’t.
I honestly don’t know what to say right now. Down 2-1 to the Colorado Avalanche in the third period of last night’s game, the Minnesota Wild came storming back with goals by Zach Parise and Kyle Brodziak in the span of less than two minutes to take a 3-2 lead. In a game that had already been poorly officiated with questionable calls or non-calls against both teams, it looked like the Wild had overcome the odds and was on its way to a 3-2 stranglehold on the first round series. That was not to be the case.
With a little over two minutes left in the game, Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy pulled goaltender Semyon Varlamov for the extra attacker. Colorado pressured hard from there, but Minnesota was able to get the puck out of the zone and Charlie Coyle was well on his way to clinching the win with his fourth goal of the series when Avs defenseman Andre Benoit prevented him from doing so with a crystal clear hold that would go uncalled. A few seconds later, Nathan MacKinnon gathered the puck and entered the Wild’s defensive zone as Paul Stastny comes in just offside. Stastny receives the puck from Mac, and then passes to PA Parenteau, who scored the equalizer. MacKinnon would later score the winner in overtime.
Just like that, two missed calls change the momentum in the series drastically, to the detriment of anyone who actually cares about watching good, clean hockey. Unfortunately, that was just the icing on a mountainous cake of horrid officiating. Calls and penalties that went uncalled did go both ways throughout the game, but generally leaned in Colorado’s favor, starting with a goalie interference call on Mikael Granlund, who, upon further review, never once touched Varlamov. It isn’t surprising, however, considering Brad Meier was the same ref to make this boneheaded call against the Wild earlier in the season.
Then Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog decided he was going to crosscheck Wild captain Mikko Koivu, hold his stick and ride him to the ice where he then started shaking and pounding him. Somehow, both would go for “roughing”. Unbelievable. Of course, this would work out in Colorado’s favor as they scored on the ensuing 4-on-4 to take a 2-1 lead.
What’s even more infuriating is that, after expressing disdain for Minnesota “goon” Matt Cooke, the Avs wasted no time in praising their own thug, Cody McLeod, who spent much of his time assaulting Wild players every time he touched the ice. The refs had no problem looking the other way, and only broke things up when an incensed Coyle came over to defend teammate Matt Moulson, who had been crosschecked face first onto the ice in front of the Wild bench. Coyle was the one headed to the box, which, of course, makes sense because he absolutely deserved the sudden whack upside the head from McLeod earlier off the draw.
Here are some knee-jerk reactions from around the league:
Trouble in Denver. Charlie Coyle held by Andre Benoit with net empty causing turnover. Up ice, Paul Stasny is offside as Avs tie game. Ouch!
— Kerry Fraser (@kfraserthecall) April 27, 2014
— Mike Modano (@9modano) April 27, 2014
No contact between Granlund and the goalie, which is Brad Meier’s MO as #mnwild fans know well
— Michael Russo (@Russostrib) April 27, 2014
— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) April 27, 2014
“If I was a Wild fan right now I’d be wild mad.” OK Jeremy Roenick
— David (@DavidB2403) April 27, 2014
McLeod absolutely runs Moulson without the puck at the bench and Brad Meier is giving Colorado a power play
— Michael Russo (@Russostrib) April 27, 2014
— Ben Hayle (@bhayle) April 27, 2014
This is just unacceptable. The National Hockey League has no excuse for last night’s debacle. There is no accountability. Instead, Minnesota and its fans are left with something akin to, “Aw, shucks. That’s too bad, better luck next year, eh!” That’s not good enough by a long shot.
I have no doubt Mr. Meier is probably a real good guy, but his track record speaks for itself. This guy just hasn’t shown he can be a legitimate NHL official. What’s worse is that there’s no instant replay, coach’s challenge–whatever you want to add to the list–to bail him out when he makes a bad call. It seems the only thing that can be overruled are goals. Who’s to say questionable plays and uncalled penalties should be exempt from review?
Playoff series need to be decided by the players, but there’s no question the officials singlehandedly enabled Colorado to win. Meier and Co. had two big chances prior to Parenteau’s equalizer to set things right. They didn’t, and now the team that hands down deserved to win the game is headed back to St. Paul to force Game Seven. This isn’t right, and everyone outside Colorado knows it.
Meier’s officiating was downright shameful. It’s embarrassing. It gives officials around the league a bad name. It gives the league itself a bad name. It disrespects the Wild players, who have fought valiantly all series long. It disrespects a fan base that has never wanted anything more in its life–aside from an NHL franchise after Norm Green’s antics deprived them of their beloved North Stars–than a Stanley Cup championship. It disrespects a team owner that is doing everything in his power and more in his attempts to schmooze a Winter Classic out of a large market obsessed league. It’s disrespectful to every kid in the State of Hockey that has ever skated on a frozen pond dreaming of one day playing in the NHL and, if they’re lucky, hoist the Cup.
There’s a reason why there are four rounds of best-of-seven hockey. Only the best of the best can win the Cup. While I’m not saying that team is Minnesota, if it loses this series, those two late game missed calls will have played a key role in its demise. That said, Minnesota can’t dwell on this. They’ve been absolutely dominant on home ice in this series, something Colorado can’t exactly say about their own home wins. If Minnesota can win Game Six tomorrow, they still stand a good chance of winning Game Seven, considering how well they’ve played in Denver.
If Colorado wins, and goes on to win the Stanley Cup, they better make sure to add Brad Meier to the list of names going on the Cup. Whether he likes it or not, he may just turn out to be their MVP.