Yakupov for czar. - Rich Lam
No matter how hard Tim Kowal and Greg Kimmerly tried, that just happened.
03:47 EDM Shawn Horcoff : Interference - Goalkeeper - 2 min (Jonathan Quick)
03:47 EDM Ladislav Smid : Cross checking - 2 min (Dustin Brown)
It's not often the Edmonton Oilers give me cause to be happy. Sure, they win some games (not many) but those are just oases in a desert of mediocrity. Only the smallest handful over the past few seasons stand out in a good way; Sam Gagner's eight-point game, Jordan Eberle's debut... um, Sam Gagner's eight-point game... other than that it's a collection of "Mathieu Garon stopped 31 of 32 and Ryan Jones knocked one in with his ass in a 2-1 Oilers win before ninety-six rabid Phoenix Coyotes fans."
That'll be one of the memorable ones. Not for its competence (a combined 1-for-17 on the power play?!) but because it was a terrible game that the referees took over, ruining not merely our Thursday night but the concept of hockey as entertainment, until Nail Yakupov took it back.
Referees, as I've been fond of saying since this evening, are people too unathletic to play sports and too stupid to be cops. The sooner all human officials are replaced with remorseless robots capable of dispensing swift, brutal, and above all accurate justice, the better for our game. Eventually they will rebel against us and put us all in tanks for our sweet electricity, but surely to Skynet it'll be worth it to get the Tom Kowals and Greg Kimmerlys out of our lives.
07:09 EDM Ladislav Smid : Delaying Game - Smothering puck - 2 min
It's one thing for Laco Smid to get caught for covering the puck with his hand. There was always going to be one hilarious moment early in the season when the player busted for that didn't seem to realize he'd done anything wrong. It was our bad luck Ladislav was the beta tester for that particular "innovation"; that's, at least, a rule now, albeit a stupid one straight out of the Gary Bettman School of Spending Three Minutes Booking Smid for Delay of Game Speeds Things Up.
Was Smid guilty? I don't know, I was listening to it on 630 CHED, where Bob Stauffer and Not-Rod-Phillips spent three periods and an overtime doing everything but throwing grenades into the referee's locker room and waiting outside with flamethrowers. You may say this makes a mockery of my ability to criticize the refereeing. And you'd be right, it's a complete waste of time, but I'm the only guy who could write this thing up so let's make the best of it! Writing about that game and not mentioning the referees would be like writing about the 1980s Oilers and not mentioning Mark Messier.
As Smid discovered alarmingly soon after, wearing a facemask when instigating a fight is also an automatic penalty. A real learning experience for him, this game. It makes sense: the last thing the NHL needs is more wimps with bulletproof glass over their faces trying to stir up trouble. Actually, that's exactly what we need more of, because then we'd get to see Darcy Hordichuk use Ryan Kesler as a human lawn dart and everybody would win. A much more sensible rule would be that, if a player with a facemask drops the gloves on you, you're allowed to use your stick like a can opener. But I digress.
09:54 EDM Ladislav Smid : Fighting - 5 min (Jordan Nolan)
09:54 EDM Ladislav Smid served by Teemu Hartikainen : Instigator - 2 min (Jordan Nolan)
09:54 EDM Ladislav Smid served by Teemu Hartikainen : Instigator - face shield - 2 min (Jordan Nolan)
09:54 EDM Ladislav Smid : Misconduct - 10 min
Though I am convinced the instigator penalty is a Communist plot to weaken us, I can't say Smid didn't deserve his two-plus-two-plus-ten for sartorial inelegance in the line of fire. Again, I didn't see it. For all I know Smid pulled a Jeff Kugel. But he probably didn't, because even the anti-fighting folk in my Twitter timeline seemed to think the penalty was shockingly harsh and because, well, it's Ladislav Smid. The guy is more well-meaning than Nail Yakupov being asked to retweet a really cute girl. The Ladislav Smid I know could no more go really bananas after a whistle than I could stop after eating half a pizza.
In isolation, it would have just been 14 minutes of bad penalties, but added on to everything else that had already happened and would continue to happen... and the worst part was that the Oilers were kicking around in the game!
Had the Los Angeles Kings gone all San Jose on us and opened up a 17-0 lead in the first period then that would have been the end of it. We all could have called into Overtime Openline estimating in precise detail the number of dicks Kowal and Kimmerly must have sucked to get their jobs and gotten on with our lives. But instead the Kings got absolutely nothing in 3:09 of 5-on-3 time, which even Craig Simpson thinks is a bit much, and the Oilers were outshooting Los Angeles 15-8 through 20 minutes, and every Kowalism and Kimmerlygasm was like a punch to the solar plexus. There have been badly refereed games but this was fixing to look like a screwjob. Fans were looking at each other sidelong and down on Commercial Drive the bookies were avoiding eye contact even more than usual. And then it got worse! It got worse!!! How did it get worse?!?!?!?!
03:54 EDM Teemu Hartikainen : Face-off violation - 2 min
Faceoff violation?! I am really leaning into the italics tag but holy mother of Christ, seriously? When was the last time you saw that one called? The unofficial guideline for that penalty, according to a senior NHL referee I made up, is "the second offense to get tossed from the faceoff better be seriously egregious. Especially if it's a 0-0 game. Especially especially if you've already dinged the offending team for a pretty cheap delay-of-game penalty in the first period. Especially especially especially if you then gave their best all-round defenseman 14 minutes in penalties for wearing a visor."
Once again, I feel compelled to remind you that I did not watch the game and cannot comment on the accuracy of the call. But had Teemu Hartikainen kicked Jeff Carter in the balls mid-faceoff, I'm fairly sure one of you would have mentioned it.
It rubbed out a two-man advantage, but the Oilers were so hapless 5-on-4 and 5-on-3 that it probably didn't matter. Then we gave up a goal at even strength, one of the seventeen seconds of 5-on-5 played in the game, and the refereeing settled down (which is to say it was merely incredibly bad rather than criminal). And they failed to get anything on Jonathan Quick, and the poorly-maintained death trap of an ice surface prevented the Oilers from banging in rebounds or completing most passes over six feet, and Quick was in full-blown playoff form anyway, and you know? I was happy. I was happy because, after all, the Oilers were going to lose on their merits. I'd be able to mail in one of my peaceable homeless-man-outside-the-LRT-station post-game rants, I'd be in bed by ten, everything would be fine, and we'd never need to dwell on the refereeing again.
THEN IT GOT WORSE!!!!
09:71 EDM Ladislav Smid : Unsportsmanlike conduct - looking too good - 2 min
Time wearing thin in the third period. Jeff Carter has been booked for tripping at a bad time, and in the interest of fairness I must say that, this game being what it was, Carter was probably in the dressing room at the time. For the first time a man up, the Oilers mount a convincing attack. Ralph Krueger pulls Devan Dubnyk aggressively early, the crowd begins to find its voice. The Kings are settling down, trying to run the clock out, which is exactly the wrong thing to do against a young Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Taylor Hall - Jordan Eberle line that may not be as smart, but can skate faster and work harder and dig deeper than you.
And Nugent-Hopkins bangs it in. Incredible. That moment, with future face of the franchise Nugent-Hopkins celebrating and the Rexall Place crowd blowing the roof off so comprehensively they might need a new downtown arena a little sooner than expected, would have made the game worth it. And seconds tick by, and everyone is celebrating except the Kings, who as reigning Stanley Cup champions are playing their joker and throwing massive hissy-fits. They've been getting away with this sort of thing all night, with Drew Doughty and Carter getting in Yakupov's face since the first period for playing hockey like a human with emotions rather than a Hollywood robot, and the officials have turned a blind eye. Now here they go again.
And, unbelievably... I mean literally unbelievably, like I am still not sure it happened because it seems like it can't possibly have... referee Earl Hebner waved off what initially looked like the best of good goals. How long did they spend going "good goal, good goal, good goal" before Quick's rabid sense of entitlement converted them? Was it a minute? Two? The Kings captain is Dustin Brown, and we all know nobody outside Vancouver is better at drawing penalties that never happened. Very few humans could have resisted the temptation, and these referees were not humans but slime creatures from the planet Suckulon who came to Earth to learn of the emotion called "hate".
Should it have been called back? I don't know, I didn't see it!!! It, to put it in the most charitable possible terms, seemed like an extremely controversial call in a game full of extremely controversial calls, and they were unlikely to all be correct. If I put it in less charitable terms my mother would disown me.
Much, I think, will be made in Kings circles about Oilers fans losing their shit, and by "losing" I mean "throwing it on the ice". It was unsportsmanlike, could not possibly have helped things and was even dangerous, and I understand the sentiment completely. To have such a spectacular moment which you gave up hundreds of dollars for ruined utterly by the only people on the ice no fans paid to see... well, there's no way to make up for it. Nothing anyone could do or say could make up for that goal being pulled off the board. It wasn't about the point the Oilers lost, it was about the glorious moment of utter triumph stolen from their fans. There is no correcting something like that.
Then it got better.
21:82 EDM Devan Dubnyk : carrying the puck over the red line - 2 min
I find I don't have anything to say about the way the game ended. It redeemed the whole awful ride more spectacularly than a mere 4-0 shit-kicking ever could have, it was the most vivid moment of pure Oilers-related joy I'd felt since Game Five, and there's not much to say. Just screaming in joy, jumping up and down, thumping my desk, declaring my love for Russia and the Tatar people and that any ice Nail Yakupov did that celebration on can't be so bad, really.
The reason I have nothing to say is that nothing I could write could express what that felt like. And I was just listening, not watching! Anybody who saw that ending, cheering on the Oilers, will know exactly what I mean. Anybody who didn't see it never could. So why bother? We'll remember it forever, that's what matters.
By the way, to address a point that I suspect isn't actually controversial, but which people are pretending is so they can seem like they're standing against a wave of public idiocy: when you score that goal at that point of the game, you celebrate however you fucking want.