If you woke up this morning and checked the morning paper, you'll notice that the Colorado Avalanche lost to the Phoenix Coyotes last night by the lopsided score of 5-2. You may think to yourself, "those Avalanche just aren't very good this year" and move along with your day.
You would be dead wrong.
If you weren't at Pepsi Center last night, then you have no idea what happened inside the Can. Here's the story that no one is talking about today, from the perspective of yours truly; a simple hockey blogger who happened to be in attendance. As the great Paul Harvey said, "here's the REST of the story"...
A brief note on the significance of this game: Since it was the last game before the All-Star Break -- and both teams were essentially tied in the standings -- the winner was guaranteed at least sixth place in the Western Conference heading into the break. The loser is on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. Considering how tight the West is this year, that's a huge game. Also, since Phoenix already won the first game at Pepsi Center earlier this month, this game had huge tiebreaker factors weighing on it. Enough of this; back to the game!
The first period was awful. Historically awful. The Avalanche managed one shot in the entire period, a Ryan Stoa goal that gave Colorado an early lead. Apparently, this is some sort of NHL record for ineptitude (efficiency?), with a team scoring on their only shot of a period. Aside from that? Starting Colorado goalie Peter Budaj was chased after allowing two (tissue paper) soft goals, and he was replaced by Craig Anderson.
Colorado played poorly, but a big part was due to frustration at the pace of the game. The referees called five penalties on Colorado in the first period alone, with the Ryan Wilson roughing at 13:12 and maybe the Adam Foote holding penalty at 10:20 being substantial enough to blow a whistle. The referees had only begun to show their incompetency.
End of the Historically Bad First Period: Phoenix 2, Colorado 1
Shots on Goal: Phoenix 14, Colorado 1
Fast forward to the Second Period: After being throughly outplayed by Phoenix and handicapped by the officials in the first, Colorado wanted to come out firing in the second. Instead, Craig Anderson let in a quick goal to Eric Belanger.
THEN IT HAPPENED.
Wait. What? Goal waived off?
The referees determined that Cody McLeod was in the crease and therefore the goal doesn't count. By doing so, they not only rob Galiardi of a goal, but ignore the fact that Phoenix defenseman Sami Lepisto (who was completely out of the play) bent down and picked the net off the moorings to stop play. Instead of reviewing the goal -- or discussing amongst themselves -- the team of referees attempted to immediately start play back up again, delayed only by the fervent protests of Coach Joe Sacco, captain Adam Foote and incessant booing of the Pepsi Center faithful.
The boos chorused through the building for the remainder of the period, and the team of referees were welcomed to the ice before the third period to the loudest boos of the season so far. Even Todd Bertuzzi would have cringed at the treatment given to the refs last night. It was incessant.
In the third period, Phoenix's Kyle Turris scored another goal on Craig Anderson. Unfortunately, Anderson couldn't even see the puck because he had just been sprayed with ice by another Phoenix player, who set up residence inside the crease. Was interference called? Absolutely not. Cameras showed Anderson covered in snow as he protested the goal, to no avail. There wasn't even a review or discussion on the play.
Later in the third period, as the boos and chants continued from the crowd, Phoenix defenseman Derek Morris pulled the net off the moorings for a second time, bailing out Bryzgalov and potentially saving another goal from scoring. Again, no whistle. No review. No penalty.
This may sound like the extreme rantings of a bitter fan, your standard "the refs screwed my team" protest that you may read after every game.
This is not intended to be that protest.
Unfortunately, since it was an NHL game between Phoenix and Colorado, and the last game before break, no one cares enough to write about what happened inside the arena. Mike Chambers of the Denver Post has two sentences in his recap. The NHL recap includes a single paragraph. Pro Hockey Talk mentions that the crowd was mad, but no more details to explain a possible reason.
It was maddening. It was frustrating. The Colorado Avalanche faithful who paid good money for their seats were robbed, and so was the team. I'm not sure that the Avalanche deserved to win the game; in fact, they probably didn't. But as a fan, I expect my team to have a fair chance on the ice. The job of the official is to ensure the game is played fairly, that both teams can determine their own fate. It's the beauty of sport, and it was unabashedly stolen away last night.
Colorado technically lost last night. In reality, they were never given the opportunity to win.