Maybe he was; maybe he wasn’t. That’s the fairest, most-unbiased way of describing it.
In the second period of last night’s Game 7 between the Avalanche and the Sharks, Colorado tied the game at 2-2 when Nathan MacKinnon found Colin Wilson on a beautiful bang-bang play in front of the net. The goal came as teams were making line changes, catching San Jose off guard.
Before the celebration could wind down, however, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer challenged the play; he was claiming that the Avs were offside. Initially, it was a bit of a head-scratching decision, as both MacKinnon and Wilson were clearly in the neutral zone before the puck crossed the blue line. But further review spotted the problem; Gabriel Landeskog was slow to get off the ice during the change, standing near the line as he entered the bench.
Was Colorado’s captain on the wrong side of the blue line when the puck entered the zone? Probably.
Was there definitive proof? Certainly not.
Did the answers impact the play one way or the other? Nope.
And that’s what makes the call so tough to swallow. Sure, there’s a distinct possibility that Landeskog was technically offside on the play. But the Avalanche didn’t gain an advantage if he was; MacKinnon and Wilson weren’t impacted by whether or not the captain was one inch to the left or right of the blue line, or whether Landy’s skate was in the air or on the ice.
It was a silly, nitpicky call. It was the enforcement of a rule based on the letter of the law rather than the spirit of it.
That’s fine; it’s certainly well within the referee’s rights to call the game that way. But that has to be the standard across the board.
By the letter of the law, a call can only be overturned via replay if there is definitive evidence that the original, on-the-ice decision was incorrect. At least based on the views provided by NBCSN during the broadcast, that clearly wasn’t the case last night. Yet, the call was still changed.
The referee needed to pick a lane. Is everything by the book? Or are calls based on gut instinct?
It was a little bit of both on Wednesday night, which was brutally unfair to the Avs. As a result, their season is over, while the Sharks advance to the Western Conference Finals after their 3-2 win.
To their credit, Colorado didn’t complain about the call. To a man, they didn’t point the finger of blame at the refs.
“It’s a clumsy mistake,” Landeskog said after the game about getting caught on the ice during the line change. “If I could’ve done something different on that play, I would’ve jumped the boards a lot quicker.”
That’s fair. He certainly could’ve gotten off the ice faster. It’s definitely on the captain for creating a scenario where the game could be in the hands of the replay official in the first place.
But that doesn’t change the fact that a borderline call, one that could’ve gone either way, ended the Avs season. And that’s a tough way to see a playoff run come to an end.
Maybe he was; maybe he wasn’t. Colorado deserved to win or lose in a better way.
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