Rangers-Caps Game 6 Highlights Case For Coach’s Challenge

With a frantic 4-3 victory on Sunday evening, the Rangers have pulled off what appeared unlikely mere days ago as they have forced a game seven against the Capitals in a series they once trailed 3-1.

Riding goals from Chris Kreider (two), Rick Nash, and Dan Boyle, as well as a 42 save performance from Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers staved off elimination once again to send the series back to New York for an all decisive game seven to be played on Wednesday.

But while the Rangers ultimately escaped the Verizon Center with a series extending win, it wasn’t before a controversial penalty call with under three minutes to play in regulation, a call that again sheds light on the league’s need for the addition of a coach’s challenge.

Controversial Call While Clinging to Dear Life

Fast forward to the final 10 minutes of Sunday’s game five, and the Capitals were in the midst of a furious push to tie the game at four. After the Rangers took the three goal lead after two quick goals from Nash and Boyle at the start of the third, Washington surged back thanks to goals from Joel Ward and Jason Chimera.

As time wound down, the Capitals held play almost entirely in the Rangers zone and when the pressure reached a climax, the hopes of the Blueshirts holding onto their one goal lead became even grimmer when James Sheppard was sent to the penalty box for delay of game with 2:44 remaining in regulation. The only issue, however, was that it was a penalty that never should have been called, and never would have come to fruition if a coach’s challenge was at the disposal of the Rangers.

Initially, no penalty was called when Sheppard’s clearing attempt went out of play, however after a brief huddle amongst the officials it was decided that the puck had in fact gone straight out of play and thus a penalty was assessed.

Except the puck did deflect off the glass and thus no violation was actually committed, but because of the fast pace of the game coupled with the lack of video review, the Capitals were sent to the power play giving them an even greater opportunity to tie the game and send it to overtime in the waning moments of regulation.

Lucky for the Rangers, they were able to kill off the penalty and escape the game with a win, but just imagine if they hadn’t.

Adapt to a Changing Game

NHL officiating has already, for better or for worse, taken some serious flack in this postseason thus far for glaring inconsistencies and blown calls. Last night was just another example of that, and while I find “ref blaming” to be as annoying as nails on a chalk board, had the Capitals cashed in on that power play, the Rangers and their fans would have had a serious gripe with the officiating crew.

Now I tend to give the officials the benefit of the doubt, as the speed at which today’s game is played makes it nearly impossible to call each and every play correctly. But Sunday’s delay of game penalty was one which was so blatantly incorrect, and one way to push things in the right direction and help ensure that the biggest calls don’t go unmissed is to implement a coach’s challenge.

Much like in the NFL, a coach’s challenge wouldn’t only add another unique element to the game of hockey, but it would also give teams and coaches an opportunity to combat calls that they are strongly displeased with, and better than that, it would force teams to pick and choose their battles, much like NFL coaches must do in football.

If the Rangers had surrendered a goal in the final minutes of game six and gone on to lose the contest, it would have been a travesty, one which could have so easily been righted if a challenge were at the Rangers disposal. Of course the fact that no goal was scored and a game seven will be played makes that point moot, but why let that even be a possibility?

The NHL has a chance to make the game more interesting as well as to continue to adapt with an ever changing game. Adopting a coach’s challenge in an effort to slowly cut down on referee mistakes is not only the right thing to do for all teams, but it will also improve the game as a whole.

Implementing a coach’s challenge is something that has been discussed much like 3-on-3 overtime has been, now it’s time to put it into action.

Game seven between the Rangers and the Capitals is set for 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. If the first six games are any indication, the final chapter of this series will no doubt be a doozy. Let’s just hope that some sort of controversial call won’t play a role in the outcome of that game, though if I were a betting man, I’d guess one will.