Like all of us, referees are only human. They make their share of mistakes, even if it does cost a team a goal or worse, a game. They certainly do receive the brunt of harsh criticism from coaches, players and fans if a blown call leads to misfortune for one team - and it's not always fair when that does happen. With that said, I do sympathize with referees at any level, especially those in the National Hockey League - but only to an extent.
While many things did go right for the Los Angeles in 2013-14, a few things, conversely, went wrong. While I have always been an advocator to focus on the positive instead of dwelling on the negative, there is a great deal of naivete for sweeping the negative under the rug. What I am referring to is the amount of goals that have cost the Los Angeles Kings on both ends of the ice this season.
Despite notching their fourth 100-point campaign in franchise history, tying a franchise mark in wins and winning the William M. Jennings Trophy for the fewest goals against in a season, the Kings found themselves on the short end of ridiculous goal calls on multiple occasions this past regular season. While every team at every level in any sport has dealt with shoddy officiating in one way or another, the Kings have, in a large sense, been forced to adapt to such incompetence.
In 2013-14, the Los Angeles Kings had nine - count them, nine - goals called back against them. Worse, they had nine goals scored against them that should not have counted. While a few of these instances were, in all fairness, marginal, most were so ridiculously obvious that even a child (with all due respect to children) could step in and get the call right.
The most recent example of the latter came on Saturday night vs. Anaheim.
In the early stages of the second period, the Ducks thought they took a 2-1 lead, but Anaheim's Devante Smith-Pelly tipped in the puck, not with his stick but with his skate in what the replay showed as a distinct kicking motion. Nevertheless, the goal stood. I cannot decide what was worse: the goal initially counting or the goal standing after being reviewed. This wasn't the first time an incident like this bit the Los Angeles Kings in the rear end and sadly, it won't be the last. The Kings may have earned a point taking the game to a shootout but did ultimately lose the game.
In terms of a goal being called back against Los Angeles, one example is a game back on March 15 where the Kings hosted none other than the Anaheim Ducks.
With the Kings down 2-1 in the third, Anze Kopitar scored to tie the game. But not so fast. Ducks' netminder Frederik Andersen was interfered with by a Kings player. The replay, however, distinctly showed the Kings player slowing down and turning away from the crease in an effort not to make contact with the opposing goaltender. But the Anaheim defenseman knocked the King into Andersen anyway. No goal. Worse, unlike Saturday's example, the referees never even bothered reviewing the play. The goal was called back and the Kings lost the game.
Let me reiterate those numbers. Nine goals called back against the Kings this season and nine against that should not have counted for them.
The National Hockey League is supposed to be the cream of the crop as far as hockey on the world stage goes, much less in North America. It is what players from various countries around the world strive for, where kids on frozen ponds in rural Quebec or northern Finland imagine themselves winning the Stanley Cup and it's where every single person who has ever put on a pair of skates and carried a stick dreams of playing whether they're four or forty-four.
So, with the NHL looked at in such high regard around the world, why is it that their referees not only fail to make the right call but why is it that they cannot rectify what they did do wrong? Furthermore, in the risk of sounding both selfish and bias, why does this happen so often to the Los Angeles Kings?
Are referees from Edmonton or Winnipeg jealous that Southern Californians don't have to deal with snow or frigid cold during the winter months? Is this their way of humbling "arrogant" Hollywood-types? Whatever the case may be (and I hope the actual reason is a bit more mature than the ones I listed), these referees need to wake up and get their act together, especially now that the playoffs are set to start in just a few days.
Whether this shoddy officiating is solely a shot against the Los Angeles Kings or a league-wide dilemma, these zebras, with all due respect, need to screw their heads on straight before one team is cost a game, a series or worse, the Stanley Cup.
The players and the coaches have worked their tails off to get to the playoffs. It is only fair for the referees to return the favour and give those players, coaches and the countless fans in North America and around the globe the world-class game officiated in a world-class manner.