Game of Half-Inches: You Decide if This Critical Call in Stanley Cup Finals Was the Right One


Both the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup Final began in early June (the 6th for the NBA, the 8th for the NHL), and both seemed set up to be wildly anticlimactic.

That’s because both series saw a team jump out to a 3-0 series lead — effectively a death knell for the team which is down in a race to four wins.

In the NBA, the Boston Celtics dispatched the Dallas Mavericks in five fairly noncompetitive games after taking that 3-0 series lead, securing the franchise’s league-best 18th NBA championship on Monday.

In the NHL, the Florida Panthers leapt out to a 3-0 series lead — also a first-to-four affair — over the Edmonton Oilers… but that series is still going nearly a week after the NBA Finals ended.

The Oilers are seeking to be just the fifth NHL team to come back and win a playoff series after being down 3-0, and the team took a big step towards that historic and lofty goal on Saturday night with a riveting 5-1 win.

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The Saturday win ties the series 3-3, and social media was obviously abuzz with chatter about this historic comeback.

It’s worth noting that none of the previous four teams to come back from a 3-0 deficit did it in the Stanley Cup Final. Should Edmonton actually pull this off, it’d be a first for the championship round.

Amid all that buzz, however, emerged one key moment of contention/controversy that continues to bubble up in modern sports fandom: When is replay review too much?

(For the non-sports ball folks, “replay review” is when a critical call or play is given a second look by officials, typically at the behest of a coach or the league review office. Plays or rulings can then be overturned based on what the referee assesses from the replay.)

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This question arose during a critical juncture of Game 6 on Saturday.

Early in the second period, it appeared the Panthers had sliced the Oiler lead in half with a key goal, bringing the game to 2-1.

After review, however, the referees determined that one of the Panthers players was offsides, negating that goal.

(For the non-sports ball folk, “offsides” is called if a player on the attacking team does not control the puck and is in the offensive zone. The rule’s purpose is to prevent players from “cherry picking” and just sitting in the offensive zone.)

A zoomed-in image of the offending skate, notable for just how grainy it is due to zooming in, swiftly went viral on social media.

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If even a smidgen of the skate was still on the blue line, the goal would’ve stood.

As with most controversies, this one took on a life of its own thanks to all of the different angles available.

Very few NHL fans, at least those on social media, are saying the referees got the call wrong. Ultimately, it does appear that the referees made the correct call.

But was it the right call?

As one X user pointed out under the post with the viral image, “[h]ockey is not football.”

“Hockey is not football,” the user posted. “It is not a game of inches. And this is not conclusive enough to overturn the call on the ice.”

Others on social media argued that it was against the spirit of competition to endlessly disrupt flow to review ticky-tacky fouls.

It’s the whole “If baseball umpires were replaced by computers that never make mistakes, would that improve baseball?” argument.

Human error is a part of sports. At a certain point, trying to regulate it only hurts the game further.

But don’t take this writer’s word for it. Take it from Oilers superstar Connor McDavid, who found himself on the opposite end of a similar call earlier this season.

“You keep zooming in until you can’t zoom in anymore, I guess it’s offsides,” McDavid said in January.

Regardless of whether or not that offsides call was correct, incorrect, right or wrong, the Oilers will be looking to make history, while the Panthers will be looking to desperately avoid it, when the puck drops Monday for Game 7.

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Bryan Chai has written news and sports for The Western Journal for more than five years and has produced more than 1,300 stories. He specializes in the NBA and NFL as well as politics.
Bryan Chai has written news and sports for The Western Journal for more than five years and has produced more than 1,300 stories. He specializes in the NBA and NFL as well as politics. He graduated with a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. He is an avid fan of sports, video games, politics and debate.
Class of 2010 University of Arizona. BEAR DOWN.
Phoenix, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, Korean
Topics of Expertise
Sports, Entertainment, Science/Tech