The Ottawa Senators came into their game against the Carolina Hurricanes with a playoff spot, a jubilant home crowd, their two star players in Alfredsson and Spezza back in the lineup and a chance to move up in the standings to take over the 6th seeded New Jersey Devils. The Carolina Hurricanes post-season hopes have already been dashed, so this no stakes game wasn’t much of a one for them. Fortunately, they had the refs on hand to ruin the Senators homecoming party with bad, sometimes nonsensical calls, and their goaltender, Cam Ward, to stand tall for them between the pipes.
As frustrating as it is to see Cam Ward carry his team to a 2-1 victory after a feeble first goal and a decent deflection from Ruutu, it was nothing compared with the bad calls made. It’s hard to know where to even begin in this bizarre saga. There were 2 goals that were called not goals, one for each team with Anderson making a glove save over the goal line and Neil being called for batting in a goal. Both these non-goals changed the momentum of the game and could have been decisive in the final score, considering how tight this game was.
Then, the hits. Foligno’s kneeing call was strange. It was a clean hit, shoulder on shoulder with no lower body targeting. Neil’s charging all on Eric Staal looked purely reactionary on the part of the officials. While safety has been a big issue this year, it appears that some refs are over-compensating by calling what they deem to be borderline hits, but in this case, the refs may have been reacting to the sight of a big body splayed out on the ice, not taking into account intent, speed, legality or impact on the player. Most of us would be hard pressed to believe that someone of Staal’s size could be that delicate.
At least it was entertaining. Neil knew that the officials had taken down his number, so he went full on a hit to Ruutu, leading to a scrum that involved pretty much everyone on the ice, albeit for a minute. Carolina is not a tough team; they don’t take a lot of penalties and they don’t fight, but they looked ready to do both in this game where they clearly had nothing to play for but personal pride. They shouldn’t be proud of themselves for this game. Their first period saw them taking undisciplined and unnecessary penalties that Ottawa failed to capitalize on. The rest of the game’s bad calls made them look like what they are: a weak team that’s going to miss the post season.
The desire of the officials to protect Carolina may have to do with the fact that they don’t fight. They couldn’t match the physical play of Neil and Carkner, even with players in the same weight and height class. That didn’t stop the homecrowd from letting the referees know how they felt. In this game, it wasn’t Carolina that was the opposition, but the on ice officials.
Ottawa will not have time to look to the league for answers on this strange game riddled with bad calls. They will have to move on from this game and do it quickly, because the standings indicate that they’re going to start the post-season against the Boston Bruins who they play next on Thursday night. And they will need all their tough guys for that one.
About the Author
Written by Mika Oehling
Office worker and sports nerd. Cannot play a professional sport to save my life, but love to write. Prone to rants, raves, snarky humour and caustic commentary. My team's the Ottawa Senators. Author of Armchair Hockey, a work of humourous fiction released this year and available for sale online at Chapters and Amazon.