Brad Watson ought to teach a class to the delinquents and ne’er-do-wells: how to commit robbery in public, on television, without even wearing a mask.
Referee Watson got blind, jittery, and whistle-happy in the final minute of regulation last night, and his panic cost the Red Wings the game-tying goal in Game Three of their conference semifinals series with the Anaheim Ducks.
No need to explain the gore in too much detail, for you already know what happened: The puck trickled near the goal line, and Watson inserted whistle in mouth and, despite the puck being poked in before he blew it—or, at the very least, at the same time—the goal was disallowed because Watson had the intent to blow his whistle.
Intent. Isn’t that a word that’s associated with criminal activity?
Replays showed how Watson could, indeed, have lost sight of the puck, due to his angle versus where the puck was and the bodies between he and it.
But this isn’t about whether Watson lost sight of the puck, which in the world of hockey officiating means the whistle should be blown.
Watson couldn’t see the puck; I’ll buy that. Fine.
The issue is how quickly Watson got whistle-happy.
In such an important situation, in such an important game, Watson—and every NHL referee on the planet—ought to make damn sure that puck is nowhere to be found before tweeting.
The real time replay FSD showed indicated that Watson was way too fast in determining that the puck had vanished. Way too fast.
Not only that, but the goal crease wasn’t filled with players piled on top of one another. In that scenario, erring on the side of “quick whistle” is preferred, because waiting too long lends itself to the puck being nudged over the line by nefarious means difficult to prove.
The crease was mostly empty. There wasn’t a pile of players. It was pretty much goalie Jonas Hiller and a few skates and sticks.
Watson’s view did look to be obstructed, but not for very long—perhaps a fraction of a second.
The play, of course, was not reviewable. Those involving inadvertent whistles never are.
The Red Wings had no recourse but to point at the robber with no police around to apprehend him.
It might not make the Red Wings or their fans feel much better, but you can bet Mr. Watson will be getting a talking-to by league management. That kind of panic attack simply can’t happen in the playoffs.
Yet there really isn’t anything that can be done about similar plays in the future. How do you fix this? If a referee blows a whistle, or intends to blow a whistle, then it’s pretty much olly olly oxen free.
I suppose the league could advise its refs to exercise extreme caution and discipline, but that’s about it.
Watson’s blunder is just one of those errors that humanizes officials and can’t be legislated to anyone’s satisfaction.
The Red Wings can still win this series, of course, and I believe that they will. They outshot the Ducks by a two-to-one margin last night, and they’ll dent Hiller before it’s all said and done.
So says me.
Brad Watson panicked, pure and simple.
The Red Wings, though, ought not to.
Bring on Game Four.
But leave Watson at the hotel, please.