Remember when I said the Columbus Blue Jackets are the Charlie Brown of the NHL? They proved it again Wednesday night against the LA Kings, finding a bizarre new way to lose: time clock malfunction.
Take a look at Drew Doughty’s game winner with 0.4 seconds remaining.
Did anything catch your eye? How about the play clock pausing briefly at 1.8 seconds?
When I first watched the video, my computer was on the fritz and the video was stuttering slightly. I noticed the pause, but thought it was just a trick of the video playback. But I watched it again and, sure enough, the clock pauses for approximately 1 second at the 1.8 second mark.
In case you’re thinking that it’s just an issue with the clock on the TV broadcast, the overhead view shows the official gameclock.
The Blue Jackets broadcast crew certainly noticed it, Maple Leafs blog Pension Plan Puppets picked up the thread, and Puck Daddy weaved it into a sweater-vest. It seems like an explanation is needed; how did this happen and how did it get missed?
There are a couple possibilities. The first is that God does actually hate the Columbus Blue Jackets and momentarily stopped the passage of time for one second, with the foreknowledge that Doughty would score. Like in Joshua 10:13, except instead of the chosen people of God winning an important battle over their enemies, the Los Angeles Kings won an inconsequential hockey game.
The other possibility, that the timekeeper at the Staples Center made a mistake, makes more sense. It’s unlikely that the timekeeper purposefully paused the clock for one second in hopes that the puck would conveniently bounce to Drew Doughty to score in that extra second he provided, but he was a bit quick on the trigger finger. He likely thought that the puck had been frozen.
I’m not advocating a conspiracy or suggesting that anything was rigged, because there are much better ways to rig a sporting event than pausing the clock for 1 second. I think it’s more likely that the timekeeper thought the puck had been stopped and frozen by Sanford at the 1.8 second mark when the puck goes into the air. Most of the players on the ice lost sight of it and stood still.
I would assume such a close goal would go to video review, so why didn’t they catch the clock error then? Unfortunately, the NHL rule book is – surprise, surprise – a little unclear as to whether that type of error would even be reviewable. The rule in question is 38.4 – Situations Subject to Video Review. The two situations that are pertinent are iii and vii:
(iii) Puck in the net prior to, or after expiration of time at the end of the period.
(vii) To establish the correct time on the official game clock, provided the game time is visible on the Video Goal Judge’s monitors.
While it might seem like common sense that whether time should have expired would be reviewable, it technically isn’t. Video review for establishing the correct time is only used during stoppages in play in case too much time has come off the clock or if the clock started on a faulty faceoff. The clock pausing in the middle of play isn’t really covered.
Of course, the war room in Toronto might never have seen the clock pause. The video on NHL.com of the goal has the overhead view conveniently start at the 1.7 second mark. Depending on what replay the war room saw, they might have only looked to see if the puck crossed the goal line in time and missed the clock malfunction altogether.
For those of you thinking, “Who cares? It’s just the Blue Jackets,” I would suggest that the fans of the Blue Jackets certainly care. Their team loses enough games as it is; those are wounds that don’t need any salt. The players care. I guarantee that none of them like losing. When coach Todd Richards was asked about the situation, his most poignant comment was “I’m really disappointed for the players.”
The Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars, and Colorado Avalanche likely care. All three are behind the Kings in the Western Conference standings. This error adds another point to their total that they were not guaranteed to get in overtime or the shootout.
Depending on how the rest of the season goes, the Edmonton Oilers might care. They still have a shot at finishing last in the NHL. Again. A point for the Blue Jackets, potentially two, helps them on their way to another first overall pick.
Other teams around the NHL might care as well, knowing that a similar situation could happen to them. Will the NHL have an official explanation for this error or will they attempt to ignore it and hope the hubbub subsides?