It’s kind of a fact of life in the NHL now: every time a goal is scored, fans have a split-second thought of “I wonder if it’ll be challenged for offside?”
The league’s efforts to get more accurate outcomes with expanded replay have been admirable, even if the millimeter-thin margin of error on offside challenges gets frustrating sometimes.
In Saturday night’s game, one of the most important moments of the night came late in the first period, when Sean Kuraly beat Jordan Binnington with a shot in the last minute of the period.
The Bruins were suddenly up 3-0, with a great bit of hard work by the fourth line the catalyst...and then things were thrown into disarray when the Blues decided to challenge the play for being offside.
Once the replays started rolling, the results were pretty clear:
Ha.— Kyle Keefe (@kylekeefetv) June 2, 2019
THIS is offsides.
Again. Absolute joke. pic.twitter.com/9d3796nARf
Joakim Nordstrom is 100% in the zone before the puck. During the American broadcast on NBCSN, most commenting agreed that it was offside. Watching that zoomed-in view of the skates made most viewers agree: this one was coming back.
And then...it stood. The crowd booed, the Bruins celebrated, and the head-scratching began.
The issue? The refs weren’t arguing that Nordstrom was in the zone before the puck. They were fine with that, because of how the puck got there.
A wider-angle look at the play shows that St. Louis defenseman Joel Edmundson was the one who knocked the puck back into his own zone, giving attacking players free reign to chase it down, regardless of onside/offside/eastside/westside.
The NBCSN staff began to realize this a few seconds after the decision came down, and it all made sense. The NHL explained the ruling online, and we all went about our lives.
The problem? No one told the fans who aren’t as ONLINE as the rest of us.
If you watch the broadcast again, the official comes back from review and just says the call stands. Good goal.
Imagine being in that arena, watching the NBCSN skate-focused replay: “He’s clearly offside, and the goal is coming back. Nice challenge, guys.”
And then...nope. It stands.
The league got the call right; no argument there. The whole incident, however, highlights an area where the league can improve: communicate, communicate, communicate.
Some officials are better at this than others, but the league should put a policy in place that requires officials to explain the reasoning behind their ruling.
I hate to point to the NFL as a bastion of CORRECT THINGS, but they get it right: “After reviewing the play on the field, the receiver came down in bounds with two feet, making this a touchdown.”
I’m paraphrasing, but you get the point.
Had the official announced at Enterprise Center that Edmundson was the one who controlled the puck back into his own zone, rendering the offside rule null and void, fans still would have booed, but at least they would have been informed.
Once the ruling was made, someone at NBCSN must have been in the broadcasters’ ears, as suddenly they began speculating “oh maybe THIS is what happened.” Even they weren’t sure of the logic.
I’m not asking the refs to become performance artists who read a soliloquy after every challenge, but the league owes it to its fans to ensure that they know what’s going on.
It’s a teaching moment for the league, and is something I’m sure they’ll improve on going forward.
After all, a little communication can go a long way.