The NHL announced Montreal Canadiens defenceman Mike Matheson has been fined $5,000 for the play that set off a series of unfortunate incidents in Thursday night’s matchup against the Florida Panthers.
The play took place in the first period, featuring a nasty reverse hit by Matheson which forced Eric Staal to leave the game.
And while there’s no doubt Matheson deserves the fine, it also puts the questionable work by the referees on full display, seeing as Matheson was not penalized for the clear interference.
Mike Matheson just decides to absolutely not play the puck and smoke Eric Staal instead.
No call on the play. pic.twitter.com/hY1a6FuWrM
— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) January 20, 2023
Hellbent on revenge, the Panthers took matters into their own hands, including a blatant knee by Sam Bennett on Canadiens defenceman Jordan Harris, not to mention an ugly hit on Arber Xhekaj which epitomized boarding.
It’s also worth noting Radko Gudas attempted a cheap shot of his own, attempting to take out Kirby Dach’s knees in the third period.
Dach did not participate in practice on Friday.
This is an insanely gross knee from Sam Bennett on Jordan Harris pic.twitter.com/UAu6215Khx
— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 20, 2023
Simply put, the referees lost control of the game, and the fallout resulted in several players on both teams putting their health at risk.
The failure to properly penalize Matheson also led to three different fights, which, once again put player health on the back burner as the thirst for retribution drove players to seek revenge.
With two players injured, and more potential injury news on the way, it’s fair to say the inertia from the referees didn’t just lead to a game filled with illegal hits, it also put their lack of accountability on full display.
They directly impacted the game, and without an explanation for their actions, or rather, inaction, it’s difficult to get a handle on the decision-making process involved in the inconsistent world of NHL refereeing.
If the NHL hopes to curve the number of brain injuries sustained by their players, a semblance of accountability would be in order.
As it stands, officiating in the NHL is a guessing game.
A dangerous guessing game.