Game one between the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators should be considered a great success in terms of playoff hockey. Passion, rivalry and blown calls all made appearances in this high-scoring affair.
But it was a second period call that had the fans in Montreal and in hockey’s social media world erupt with reactions of frustration and absolute awe. The call, sent Habs star P.K. Subban to the dressing room early with a five-minute major for slashing along with a game misconduct.
So what makes this such a questionable call? Did Subban deserve the penalty he was awarded?
Reactive: Real-Time Refs Are Hard To Blame
At first sight, Subban’s slash looked like a two-handed hack on the wrists of Mark Stone.
For starters, Stone went down in a heap on the ice with what looked liked a serious wrist injury. Certainly, in a heated affair where bodies are flying, the referees are simply trying to maintain some kind of calmness.
So as per NHL Rule 61 Subban doesn't need to injure Stone to get game misconduct; just needs to engage in a severe slash in view of referee
— Eric Macramalla (@EricOnSportsLaw) April 16, 2015
So, with what looked like a serious injury on the ice and at real time, the refs instinctively called the Habs star for slashing – handing him the game misconduct for causing injury to the opposing player.
However, it wasn’t long before Stone was seen back on the Senators bench prior to a short stint in the team’s dressing room. While the slash surely hurt – as it seemed to hit him where padding is lacking – it wasn’t enough to keep the young forward out of the game.
Hollywood’s Mark Stone
Now, hockey sticks are hard objects and by all means it does hurt when you’re hit with one, but how much of Stone’s reaction was real?
How much of it was caused by sheer shock of the slash happening? Or how much of it was to draw the refs into a call?
We all know that players sometimes exaggerate to be sure that they get the call. Some calls are missed and sometimes that leads players to sell it a little bit more. Did Stone sell this call? I can’t give you the answer, but it surely didn’t help when he returned to the Senators bench.
If you were to ask, most people would tell you that this was by far a blown call. Yes, Subban deserved a minor penalty for slashing. After all, hitting others with your stick is not part of the game – or at least within the rules. But to boot one of the game’s biggest stars from the first game of the playoffs is hard to see for fans and not great for hockey as a whole.
Wow 5 on the board for a slash. That is a massive penalty for Subban.
Stone may be gone tho with wrist or an excellent actor.
— Brian Wilde (@BWildeMTL) April 16, 2015
Who’s to blame? That’s a good question. For me, it’s a mix of real-time calls and the uncanny ability of a player to sell a call. Either way, the league will be watching Mark Stone’s new movie – the fine for embellishment pending.
For more, follow Andrew on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes or his THW column at @Tape2TapeTHW.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.