Three games in a row, three times in a row, I find myself denouncing arbitration in this series. It seems overkill at this point, but I can assure you that I intend to stop doing it as soon as I see a match being properly refereed. The moment they stop giving me something to talk about.
That moment just hasn’t come.
The Montreal Canadiens lost the opportunity to take a 3-1 series lead over the Vegas Golden Knights in overtime. Two nights after winning a game they probably didn’t deserve, the exact opposite happened to them. It’s hockey, and the Habs will have to regroup to try to take one on the road.
The NHL inexplicably allowed the same two referees, Dan O’Rourke and Chris Lee, to referee Game 4 despite their brutal performance in Game 3. They would eventually explain that this was due to the travel limitations surrounding COVID, but it was was a cold comfort for a Montreal team who saw their opponents triple their power play time on the ice in this series.
Game 4 wasn’t so one-sided – a total of four penalty minutes were handed out to each team – but it was quite the scene of missed calls. I should note that as many calls were missed against the Habs as against the Knights, and the officials were fortunate that the game did not degenerate into violence due to their willful ignorance of penalties.
Perhaps the best example came from the streak between Shea Weber and Tomas Nosek:
They almost had violence here. Nosek comes off with a clear boarding penalty against Weber, who retaliates with a fairly heavy countercheck that is also not canceled. Eventually, they both received unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for nearly fighting, but there were two blatant missed calls on that streak of several on the night for both teams.
I’ll try to put myself in a zebra jersey here. If I missed the boarding or decided not to call her, I guess I to have to ignore the crosscheck as it would be quite unfair to call it after missing the board. If I just make the correct first call at the first opportunity, I get away from this whole situation.
Alas, the general refereeing of the evening was not as one-sided as we have seen, so this could be interpreted as a positive step despite the many missed calls. At least the missed calls were going both ways.
But then we have this from Chris Lee…
It is just obvious and undeniable negligence. Nick Suzuki is punched in the face by Brayden McNabb directly in front of Lee. It looks like he’s almost raising his arm to make a call, but he turns his head away as if to say “I didn’t see that” and blows the whistle away.
Of course, they push each other, but only one punches. It should have easily been two minutes away from McNabb, so either Chris Lee has a malicious bias against the Montreal Canadiens or he’s just plain bad at refereeing. Either way, he cannot be allowed to referee any other Canadiens game, especially a playoff game.
Frankly, he’s a man who shouldn’t be allowed to officiate NHL games anymore, period. You can’t trot someone there night after night when there is such video evidence of their incompetence. If this isn’t the last time we’ll see Lee in the playoffs, I don’t know what it will take for the league to take him out of the equation.
At the very least, the Canadiens can focus on Game 5 in Vegas knowing he won’t be preparing for this one.