I'm late to the party, and only saw the Canadiens Express of last night's 3-2 loss to the Lightning, but was the tone, and the lack of control by the refs set right at the start, when they overlooked the Brian Boyle slewfoot on Lars Eller? It seemed like a clear 'editorial' decision, a flagrant foul if ever there was one that they voluntarily let slide.
Lars was leaning towards his bench, the Lightning centre was banking the other way, and he kicked out Lars' skates out. And not just the near skate, but the inside skate that Lars had his weight on. Lars went spinning and flying, it was the result of an obvious trip-slewfoot, and not a bodycheck, when the puck was nowhere near.
Yet it occurred within the first couple of minutes of the game, and it's as if the refs decided they didn't want to hand out a penalty quite so early in the game, they wanted to 'let them play', not to 'inject themselves into the game'. Were they fearful that the Canadiens would score early on a powerplay, and some would be angry about that?
I'm having to conjecture, maybe I'm way off, but that's what we're reduced to, when the referees deliberately stay mum on plays like that. What possible reason can there be?, you ask yourself.
And then whether every subsequent call or non-call is tinged with the state of accounts that exists in the refs minds, that this team is owed this, but only in these types of cases, and not including scoring chances, or those that affect Steven Stamkos, or conversely P.K. Subban, those have their own ledgers, with their own current accounts.
And that's how a player like Brian Boyle, who's generally considered an 'honest' player, a big guy who plays physically, but isn't dirty, and needs to contribute somehow so he'll occasionally throw a hit that exceeds the bounds of legality, partially due to his great size and strength and the higher than usual location of his elbows.
And then there will be the situations, the contributions like this, when in the playoffs a grinder, a fourth-liner, has to pull stunts like jabbing and punching Erik Karlsson repeatedly in the head, because he's smaller and a star and Nick Kypreos says that's how it is in the playoffs, never mind the head trauma, or Grant Fuhr's blown ACL. Because Brian Boyle has to justify his presence in the lineup, and it won't be by scoring goals. So maybe he concusses Erik Karlsson, or kreiderates a goalie. He has to do something. He needs to 'send a message'.
And every time a referee overlooks a slewfoot by a Brian Boyle, it allows him to remain in the league and do what he does, and it displaces a Jonathan Drouin, and sets the table where the other team has to have a Brandon Prust, who says "Anything you can do, I must do better", and now he's slashing and spearing guys and running a goalie, and great job refs, glad you didn't inject yourselves into the game right at the start. Because Don Cherry would have looked really scary garbed in green but purple in demeanor.