Through the first two periods of Friday’s game against Detroit, I’m sure many Blues fans were pleased with the way the game had been going. The game started out favoring the Wings in all facets of the game. Two goals by Henrik Zetterberg to start off the scoring for Detroit in the first period had to have been a message to the Note that the way they were playing on the offensive and defensive side of the puck was not working, and adjustments were necessary. And adjust they did, with a power play goal by Kevin Shattenkirk at the 9:50 mark of the first, and Matt D’Agostini scoring later at 13:04, the momentum had seemed to change. Patrik Berglund followed in the second period with another power play goal, and the jovial feelings that belonged to Hockeytown, now were returned to the faithful in St. Louis.
The game took a much bitter turn in the third when the most controversially play of the weekend happened in an incident involving David Backes of the Blues, and Kent Huskins of the Wings. Huskins had just scooped a puck out of the nearside corner and was coming out for an outlet pass up the ice. As he released the puck, Backes abruptly proceeded to lay a usual David Backes caliber hit on Huskins. Play was stopped. A 5 minute major for a hit to the head, plus a match penalty was the call. The expression on Backes’ face summed up the feeling of himself, the team, Blues fans, and quite possibly much of the hockey world.
I understand that referees will make mistakes, and that they can’t make the right call on every play. But when the game is tied between two divisional rivals in the third period, a call like this must be made accurately and appropriately. Ian Walsh did not accomplish either of these tasks and handed two points to the Red Wings in the process. Times are changing, and the NHL should follow suit with the likes of the NFL and MLB when handling crucial calls, by using a replay system. Yes, questionable goals are reviewed already, but everything else is determined by the human element of the the referee. A call like the one that was made on Backes on Friday night doesn’t have to happen if the NHL does something more to protect the integrity of the game and the officiating. If not a new replay system, something should be done to the referee involved. Warnings to referees, along with suspensions could be very effective in terms of making sure they got the calls precisely right.
This may be a Blues blog, and bias may be involved, but I can guarantee that any fan of any team in the league would have complained about this call had it been committed by a player on their team. The game was a hard fought one all the way through, and it’s a shame that a call like this one had to change the pace of the game for the worst.