By Allan Muir
"Well, the referee thought he saw something that we're not seeing there." -- Detroit Red Wings' broadcaster Mickey Redmond
That tells you all you need to know about the phantom match penalty assessed to St. Louis' captain David Backes in Friday night's loss to Detroit. When the other team's announcers can't find a way to defend it, you know you're looking at a bad call.
Backes was tossed after receiving the match for head contact at 9:38 of the third with the score tied at three. Pavel Datsyuk scored on the ensuing power play, and the Wings went on to win 5-3.
So it wasn't just a bad call. It was a game-changer. No wonder Blues' fans are incensed.
No one is saying the officials don't deserve the occasional mulligan. The speed of the game, the gurgling mass of chaos and the need to keep an eye on 12 players spread out over a 200-by-85 sheet of ice means there are going to be the occasional blown calls.
But this wasn't a bang-bang, depends-on-the-angle, 50/50 play. This was a referee reacting to a result -- defender Kent Huskins struggling to the bench -- and making a snap judgment on the violation that must have proceeded it.
Too bad he missed it. Nasty and violent, sure, but Backes' shoulder to Huskins' chest was as clean a hit as you'll see.