Major penalty video review debate reignited in playoffs
NHL players and coaches were split Wednesday on whether changes are needed to video review protocol a day after a major penalty played a dramatic role in San Jose’s Game 7 victory over Vegas.
Cody Eakin was assessed a major penalty for cross-checking and injuring Joe Pavelski in the third period, and the Sharks responded by scoring four times on the ensuing five-minute power play to set themselves up to win in overtime. The major was assessed after officials discussed the incident on the ice and a bloodied Pavelski was helped off the ice.
The Golden Knights were livid about the call, since Pavelski was not injured by the cross check. The NHL declined comment Wednesday, but the incident was surely discussed at league headquarters.
The league for five years has debated expanding video review beyond goals. There remains no consensus on potential changes.
“We’ve been saying that forever,” said Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour, whose team also dealt with a questionable major penalty given to Micheal Ferland in Game 2 against Washington. “The game’s too fast. It’s hard on refs. I don’t know how they do it. I watch it live and sometimes I think the same thing they do and then I get to sit there and stare at a (tablet) and I can go, ‘It’s obviously the wrong call.’ So, I think they’re heading to that. The NHL has got to sit down.”
Eakin cross-checked Pavelski off a faceoff, and the Sharks captain bounced off Vegas forward Paul Stastny before his head hit the ice and blood pooled underneath him. Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant said one of the referees told him it was a cross-check to the face. Series supervisor Don VanMassenhoven afterward said the officials judged it to be a penalty causing a significant injury and deemed it worthy of a major. The Sharks trailed 3-0 at the time and won 5-4 in overtime to advance to the second round.
There have only been two major penalties — not counting fighting — so far in the playoffs after 27 in the regular season. They are not subject to video review, which is limited to the puck going in or not on a goal or coach challenges for goaltender interference or offside, which have been around the past four seasons.
Vegas’ Jonathan Marchessault after the game wondered: “Why don’t you have hockey replay or something?” because it drastically altered the game.
The topic was broached as recently as March by league general managers after the missed pass interference in the NFL playoff game between the Saints and Rams prompted changes by the NFL.
Officials are “only allowed to look at coaches challenges,” senior executive vice president and director of hockey operations Colin Campbell said at the time. “We asked the managers, ‘Should they look at everything?'”
Not everyone is convinced. Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen said slow-motion replays can distort what happens on the ice at full speed, and teammate Brett Connolly isn’t on board with adding to what’s already reviewed.
“I think that’s kind of the refs’ discretion,” Connolly said. “I think you’ve got to let the refs make that call. I don’t know. It’s tough. You don’t want to be reviewing every play.”