Lighting the Lamp with Rick Ackerman
After a thrilling shootout victory over the archrival Blackhawks, the St. Louis Blues entertain the Anaheim Ducks tonight, the last home game before the Blues jet off on a lengthy five game road trip that takes them to Dallas, western Canada and finally the Pacific coast. The Note returns home two weeks from tonight to host the Vancouver Canucks and then immediately travels to the nation’s capitol for a contest the next night with the NHL’s best team. Whew! Thankfully, four of those seven games are against teams that are not going to qualify for the playoffs.
The game against Chicago was not without some anguish. After an extremely dubious charging major (and game misconduct, rescinded yesterday by the NHL) against rambunctious Ryan Reaves (even the obviously pro-Hawks NBC announcers and commentators agreed it was a terrible call, especially when the replay showed Reaves actually glided into the shoulder on shoulder check to Christian Ehrhoff), the Blackhawks took the lead on the ensuing five-minute power play and held on to it despite the efforts of the hard-charging Blues, who out shot Chicago 15-7 in the second period. Given power play opportunities in the third period, St. Louis cashed in (the Blues are now ranked 4th in the league on the power play) on tallies by David Backes and Troy Brouwer.
However, the Note could not hold the lead and Chicago tied it up with 77 seconds left in regulation, continuing to show the Blues’ lack of a killer instinct and inability to put games away. Thanks to the stellar play of Jake Allen, who made 33 saves in regulation (including a spectacular paddle-save on Patrick Kane in the last minute of the first period) and six in bonus time, St. Louis was able to win the shootout on Kevin Shattenkirk’s top shelf blast past Corey Crawford.
And just when you think that NHL officiating cannot get any worse, it does.
Once again the inconsistent officiating by referees Dan O’Halloran (a 20 year patriarch) and Wes McCauley (a nine year veteran) befuddled the capacity crowd of 19, 756, at least to disgruntled Blues’ fans, who once again had the opportunity to shout, "Ref, you suck" several times during the match. The referees gave Reaves a major and game misconduct, yet failed to give Hawks’ defenseman Brent ("Wakey-Wakey") Seabrook even a minor for face-planting Jori Lehtera into the boards; they called Paul Stastny for slashing and breaking Dale Weise’s stick during the first period, yet failed to make a similar call when Lehtera’s stick was broken by a slash off a face-off in the third period.
I can pretty much understand why the Hawk’s high-stick that clipped Scottie Upshall in the last minute of e game was not called, yet I have absolutely no clue why Chicago’s Andrew Ladd was not called for running into Jake Allen at full speed during overtime. Is there a league directive that the Blackhawks are exempt from goaltender interference during overtime or something? The Blues were assessed penalties for incidental contact with opposing goaltenders in several games this month, yet this obvious foul was completely ignored. Perhaps the officials felt disallowing the subsequent "goal" was punishment enough for Chicago, or something like that, eh?
Is there a solution to this absolute mess concerning NHL officiating?
Since the addition of a second referee for the 2000-01 season did not significantly improve the quality of officiating, why not take one off the ice and make him a "video referee?" One less body on the ice could only help, right? The two linesmen could assist the lone on-ice ref by relating what they saw concerning penalties while the off-ice ref could use current modern technology to make sure the right call is always made. There are already somewhat lengthy delays with the officials meeting to discuss events (and confer with the War Room in Toronto) and with the coach’s challenge that was implemented last June for the current 2015-16 season. Nor would it be difficult to create space for this off-ice official in the area between the penalty boxes, either, complete with a video monitor equipped with instant replay and a direct line to Toronto. It makes sense to take advantage of modern technology and improve the one major area with which the NHL has the single biggest problem. There is no reason this system or something like it could not be implemented over the summer for the upcoming NHL Centennial and Blues’ 50th Anniversary season of 2016-17.
With the announcement that the 2017 Winter Classic between the Blues and Blackhawks will be held at Busch Stadium on January 2, the scramble for tickets will commence sometime this summer. Will Blues’ season ticket holders get priority, or will Cardinals’ patrons get first shot? Is it possible that up to 50,000 or more tickets will even be available? And how much will an average ducat for this gala event cost? Will the Blues sport a retro Winter Classic jersey (with NHL 100th anniversary patch and Blues 50th anniversary patch) and how many sets will be worn and later auctioned off at exorbitant prices? Will Bob Plager be able to lace up the skates one more time and join Terry Yake other former Blues for an alumni game? Obviously, there are many, many questions to be answered and it will be most interesting to see how Blues’ management (in coordination with the Cardinals) handles this upcoming major event.
Good luck to everyone involved or anyone who wants tickets!