By Chris Emma–
(CBS) For a brief moment in time, the St. Louis Blues were on their way.
The Scottrade Center was put to a frenzy when the terrific Vladimir Tarasenko appeared to score his second goal of Friday evening, a quick dish past Corey Crawford that gave St. Louis a 2-1 edge over the Blackhawks in the third period. Had the lead held, it would’ve sent the Blues on a path to a 2-0 series edge over the Blackhawks.
Then came the pivotal moment of the contest, a 3-2 Blackhawks victory that could prove to decide the first-round series. Chicago coach Joel Quenneville elected to challenge whether Blues center Jori Lehtera was offsides entering the zone.
“Let it be, let it be,” the Blues faithful sang harmoniously along with the Beatles’ beautiful hymn. They wanted this one. They needed it.
Replay showed how each inch of ice and second in time would determine this call, one which could’ve gone either way. It was merely a toss-up for the review system. What followed next will be remembered as the first time a disputed, challenged call would impact a Stanley Cup Playoff game. The official announcement revealed the Blues’ goal wouldn’t count.
Finally, the NHL — a league so often in the wrong — got it right. The singing of Blues fans quickly shifted to loud boos and a volatile reaction that included heaving debris onto the ice.
Naturally, Twitter turned volatile, too, not just for the magnitude of the reversal, but how it occurred.
At long last, hockey has a judgment process that will prevent miscalls from determining games, series and Stanley Cup champions. Expanded video replay shouldn’t have taken so long to reach the NHL, which made scenarios like what came Friday possible.
While the hockey traditionalists largely cried foul for a six-minute delay to the game, getting the call right should be top priority, no matter how long it takes.
Every inch of ice should be subject to review if deemed necessary, and every second possible should be used to considered a ruling fairly. In this case, it just so happened to benefit the Blackhawks.
Later in the game, Andrew Shaw became the net-front presence the Blackhawks needed, shoving a puck past Blues goaltender Brian Elliott for the go-ahead tally. Shaw’s work in the crease was reviewed to ensure he didn’t interfere with Elliott, and the goal stood.
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock then challenged the challenge, a process which offers the local authority in the game officials to review the judgment of the NHL and its initial ruling. That in itself is a silly concept because the call was made right and marks the only flaw to this review process. After all, in what kind of scenario would the game officials overturn the league?
But, hey, at least it’s jurisdiction to misplaced calls. The human element is a wonderful thing but sometimes be wrong too.
Just this season, the NHL expanded its video review process to include coach’s challenges in two specific scenarios: offsides situations on goals and potential goaltender interference. The concepts were constructed knowing these two cases could decide a game — perhaps an important one. Surely enough, they both came to fruition Friday.
Controversy will remain after Chicago’s Game 2 victory in St. Louis. Coincidentally enough, one of the loudest detractors to video review this season was Quenneville.
Following a 2-0 loss to the Sharks on Feb. 9, one decided by a reversed Blackhawks goal, Quenneville sounded off.
“It’s gone to a different level,” Quenneville said in an unusually strong tone. “I don’t know the rules anymore, or something has changed, because my understanding, played a lot of hockey, that — I don’t know. I think everybody has an interpretation of what’s a good goal and what’s a bad goal. But, I can’t believe it.”
Quenneville then stormed out of his press conference. Two months later, he pulled the trigger on a review that brings his Blackhawks home to Chicago with a series draw, an even 1-1.
In the aftermath of the Blackhawks’ Game 2 victory, Quenneville was diplomatic to the video process. While he may not agree with the degree of handling, even this hockey traditionalist knows replay’s importance when at his disposal.
The Blackhawks swayed the course of this first-round series, using a coach’s challenge to remove one Blues goal, then scoring their own tally twice upheld by review. Fortunes were on Chicago’s side, following a Game 1 loss of poor puck luck.
Hockey didn’t let it be when tasked to pass judgment on this close call. What came from this challenge could’ve gone either way, quite frankly, because it was so incredibly close. History may forget that moment in which St. Louis was on its way to a 2-0 series lead over the defending champs.
Give it up to the NHL, not only for having the gall to decide a playoff game on a review but for making this process even possible. No matter how long it takes, hockey is better getting its calls right.