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Don't Mistake Incompetence for Bias

Few things in sports are worse than an overtime playoff loss.

When you lose in the fashion the Blues lost Wednesday night, it stings even more that usual. Game 3 of the Western Conference Final was decided by an illegal hand pass that set up a game-winning goal from Erik Karlsson that every on-ice official missed and were then powerless to overturn. The Blues now have to win 3 of the next 5 games in order to advance to their first Stanley Cup Final in almost 50 years. It's an uphill battle.

On the other side, the Sharks were again the beneficiaries of an officiating controversy. Before Wednesday's incident there was a offsides challenge that overturned a game-tying and game-changing Avalanche goal in Game 7 of the second round. The Sharks would win that game 3-2 and the series. And before that, there was the 5-minute major penalty given to Cody Eakin in Game 7 of the first round of the playoffs, which led to the Sharks rallying from down 3-0 to win in overtime 5-4.

And now an illegal play led to the Sharks' winning goal of Game 3 of the WCF. It's okay to be emotional about last night's robbery. It's okay to be furious at the officials who missed an obvious call and the league for creating a rulebook that sets up said officials to fail spectacularly.

But I'm here to tell you: "The Fix" is not in. The league is not favoring the Sharks through officiating.

Do not mistake incompetence for bias.

There are missed calls up and down both sides of the ice constantly every game. For the Blues, David Perron got away with a glaringly obvious delay of game and Sammy Blais probably should have taken a penalty on his hit against Justin Braun. Hell, the Sharks lost Game 2 of the Vegas series in part from a phantom goalie interference call.

None of that, of course, had the same magnitude as the missed hand pass in sudden-death overtime. Nor does the presence of missed penalties one way excuse blown calls the other.

The on-ice officials have an impossible job. Examine every moment — on and away from the puck — of an incredibly fast and violent sport played by some of the world's most athletic competitors. There's no way a human can get every call right every time.

Which is why instant replay exists. We have the technology to correct for human error in officiating and the NHL has actively chosen to implement a form so neutered, so ineffective, that not only can you not review certain things, but even when you can review others, the call still gets butchered. The league is failing its officiating crew and in some situations banning them for the screw up they'd love to correct.

Do you really think a league this incompetent could fix a series? The same league that has intentionally tanked any goodwill thrown to it for decades? Lets goals be overturned because a defenseman had his back skate a centimeter off the blue line?

If the NHL could fix anything, Connor McDavid wouldn't be playing in Edmonton. Just saying.

Don't get distracted with conspiracy theories. The Blues dominated the Sharks for most Game 3 and were the unlucky recipients of a bad break that hopefully will be addressed in the offseason. But this cup run is not over.

This team has shown all year (post-Yeo) that it can overcome the most adverse circumstances. They'll have to once again if they want the chance to win the franchise's first cup.

Blues in 7.

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