Oilers: Stop Whining & Start Winning

The Edmonton Oilers are in a place in sports where winning is almost impossible. They and their fans are whining about the calls that the NHL officials have made, or not made, in their last two playoff games against the Anaheim Ducks — and it’s not pretty.

The Surface Issue(s)

Game 4

The whining centers around two non-calls made. Oilers fans allege blatant, visible and obvious goalie interference took place. They are further flared up because the non-calls were challenged by Oilers head coach, Todd McLellan, and reviewed by the NHL in Toronto and upheld as correct. “How can this be,” laments the average Oilers fan. “Both plays were clearly goalie interference!”

The first play was in Game 4. Corey Perry slid in front of Cam Talbot, clearly contacting him. The goal was allowed, reviewed and still allowed. The NHL tonight crew went to great lengths to demonstrate an interpretation of the rule, and concluded that, because Talbot’s right skate was outside the crease, the contact was allowed. It was deemed incidental and Oilers fans were in great dismay.

Here is demonstration by the NHL Tonight crew, complete with crease:

YouTube player

It does seem a bit questionable that just because Talbot’s skate was outside the crease that the contact was allowed along with the goal. But, questionable as that may seem, the Oilers still had a chance to shake off what they and their fans deems a bad call, and win the game. They did not, but rather lost 4-3 in overtime.

Game 5

Before Game 5, the series was tied 2-2. The Oilers took a 3-0 lead into the third period. Then, the unthinkable happened. Anaheim came roaring back, and not only tied the game, but won it in overtime 4-3. It took until the second overtime period for the Ducks to complete the comeback, but they did. They now own a 3-2 lead over the Oilers in what can be argued a series that should already be over.

The Oilers, however, were once again on the receiving end of a questionable call by the officials. To muddy the waters even more, it was also a goalie interference play that was not called.

My colleague, Jim Parsons at The Hockey Writers explains the play in exacting detail in his article that has garnered quite a bit of attention, “Blown Calls Ruining Oilers Playoff Chances, NHL Credibility.” On May 6, Parsons wrote,

In this case, the interference by Ryan Kesler was a bit harder to see as the play took place, but upon review it becomes clear that Kesler took advantage of being knocked into the crease by the Oilers Darnell Nurse and instead of getting back into the play, chose to stay down and eventually grabbed Talbot’s pad with his left hand, impeding the goaltender’s ability to make a proper save.

It does give one pause to wonder why the officials did not make the call, or overturn the goal upon review. A post on May 6, at www.scoutingtherefs.com noted this about the call and the official NHL rule:

The NHL’s explanation stated that “Edmonton’s Darnell Nurse caused Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler to contact Talbot before the puck crossed the goal line.” Correctly, Rule 78.7 (ii) says that a “goal on the ice should have been allowed because (ii) the attacking Player was pushed, shoved or fouled by a defending Player causing the attacking Player to come into contact with the goalkeeper.”

On paper, all of that makes sense. But, it can be argued that Kesler did not leave the crease when it appeared that he had time to do so, and therefore goalie interference should have been called. Nevertheless, it was not called and the Ducks are ahead 3-2 in the series with a chance to close out the Oilers tonight.

The Deeper Issue

The Oilers have allowed 14 goals to the Ducks over the past three games. If their fans want to complain, that is a more valid topic than the officiating by the NHL. I understand that blown calls are frustrating, irksome and downright maddening. But, that does not change the fact that the Oilers were up 3-0 late in the third period of Game 5. The officials had nothing to do with their allowing the Ducks to come back and tie the game and then win it in overtime.

Corey Perry and Cam Talbot (Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)

I’m not saying that there is no room for loud complaining about the officials. What I am saying is that if the Oilers go on to lose this series to the Ducks, they will have only themselves to blame. 14 goals in three games do not typically turn into an opportunity to hoist the Stanley Cup.

And by the way, the nonsense on social media that the NHL does not want a team from Canada in the Stanley Cup Finals is just that. Nonsense.