NHL referees have enough to look at with a hockey game going on, so with the lack of the use of replay like in other leagues, one can expect a "blown call" every now and then.
But the questionable, debatable calls that have occurred in the first two rounds of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs have been so prolific that they merit their own slideshow.
So without further ado, here are the most influential blown calls of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Note: Influential in this context means that the call either directly contributed to the outcome of the game or that the call seemingly goes against what the NHL's Department of Player Safety preaches.
Neither the San Jose Sharks nor the Los Angeles Kings won a road game against each other this season (regular season included).
That almost changed in Game 2 of their playoff series this year when the Sharks found themselves up 3-2 in Los Angeles with under three minutes to play in the third period. The Kings had a power play, but weren't really getting too much done in the way of getting shots to the net.
Vlasic blocked a shot and attempted to clear the puck, but his deflection went out of play and was ruled as a delay-of-game penalty.
The puck appeared to hit Jeff Carter on the way out of play, but the penalty was still assessed to Vlasic, putting the Sharks down two players.
The Kings would score on the 5-on-3 advantage and again just moments later to seize victory in regulation.
The Sharks came back in the series after going down 2-0 to force Game 7, but lost in seven games.
The NHL seems to be cracking down on illegal hits to the head.
Well, most of them anyway.
Already down 5-1 in the third period of Game 3, the Montreal Canadiens obviously weren't feeling sportsmanlike, and neither was Rene Bourque.
Bourque skated by Cory Conacher and elbowed him right in the side of the head, drawing a reaction from the fans and a replay by CBC. No penalty was assessed on the play, but it was eerily similar to the Andrew Ference elbow to the face of Mikhail Grabovski that drew a one-game suspension for Ference (via NHL.com).
It is imperative that the NHL crack down on all contact to the head.
If this elbow to the side of the head in this hit doesn't make the head "the principal point of contact," it makes it difficult to assess the rationale by the NHL in not reprimanding, fining or suspending Bourque for this play.
The Senators would win the series in five games and Conacher wouldn't leave the game, but hits over time like this one can contribute to degenerative brain diseases like CTE (via New York Times).
A referee normally blows the whistle when he or she can no longer see the puck. But in the NHL, the play is generally given the benefit of a doubt by the referee and allowed to continue on for a split second longer.
This was not the case in the Dustin Penner no-goal call in Game 4.
Penner put what he thought was a good goal into the net, only to find that the referee had prematurely blown the whistle, thus negating the goal.
The Kings lost Game 4 by a 2-1 score, but won the series in seven games.
The NHL has two referees on the ice for a reason.
If one referee misses the call, the other should be able to see it. But what about "discretion" calls?
In this hit, the referee closest to Justin Abdelkader's hit on Toni Lydman keeps his arm down and lets the play continue, while the referee over two-thirds of the rink away from the hit makes the call.
While there is no denying that Abdelkader's hit earned him a game misconduct and a two-game suspension from Brendan Shanahan, the question remains—was it the hit or the result of the hit that Abdelkader was punished for?
Would it have been a "clean" hit if there was no injury?
This was a definite blown call by the close official, but likely an overreaction to the injury by the other official.
A Game 7 requires referees to be at their best with their discretion.
So when James van Riemsdyk pushed down Chris Kelly and then tripped on him, the referees were likely thinking "let them play."
But Chris Kelly took advantage of the referees' apparent mindset, throwing an elbow into van Riemsdyk's face. This was not an isolated incident that took place along the boards, but it was right in the middle of the ice in the Boston end.
Not only that, but as evidence of the elbow, "JVR" came up from the scuffle with blood on his face.
No penalty was assessed on the ice and no fine or suspension was doled out by the NHL's Department of Player Safety.
Elbows to the face. Inconsistent calls. Sensing a theme here? Bueller?
The Eric Gryba hit on Lars Eller wasn't the hardest hit ever, but did it ever leave a mark on Eller's face and the Montreal-Ottawa series.
The problem with this hit isn't the decision to give Gryba a game misconduct and later a two-game suspension.
The issue is that the result of the hit Eller spun around and went face first into the ice. Had Eller just fell and not bled all over the ice, this play might not have even been called as a penalty on the ice.
Gryba was penalized for "interference" and received a game misconduct for the hit.
As the replay showed, Eller made contact with the puck before getting hit by Gryba. While the suspension hurt Ottawa briefly, the Canadiens suffered more by being without Eller the rest of the series, which they lost 4-1.
"Let the boys play."
When Niklas Hjalmarsson scored with under two minutes to go in Game 7, the entire United Center erupted. Most fans took a good 60 seconds to realize that the apparent go-ahead goal was not going to count.
For no other reason than a referee wasn't going to let the players play it out with under two minutes to go in the third period of a Game 7.
As far as hockey goes, it would seem as if the playoffs have fans conditioned to expect the referees to put away the whistles on arbitrary calls, only making the calls that would impact scoring chances.
Apparently the referees in the Chicago-Detroit series didn't get the memo, as this no-goal call on Hjalmarsson was one of a handful of interesting decisions by officials in that series.
One must wonder what would have happened if the Red Wings had some how managed to pull out a win in Game 7, as the talk wouldn't have been about how Detroit won the series, but how the officials "lost" Chicago the series.
With all the rage that fans have at officials over "missed calls," it is easy to get lost in the wash as to what all of the calls (or non-calls) really mean.
After watching the video above, it is easy to see how much the referees on the ice have to sift through to get down to an actual penalty call.
When it boils down to it, NHL officials have a pretty tough go of things, as except for goal/no-goal calls, they do not have the benefit of looking at replay themselves (like in the NFL or NBA) and they do not have the ability review penalties like referees in other leagues have the luxury of doing.
There is plenty of unrest among fans for not calling all penalties equally, but fans must remember that they are situated in front of a TV with the benefit of watching a replay three or four times.
Notwithstanding the above, here's hoping that there will be far fewer arbitrary or blown calls in the last two rounds of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs.
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