Some officiating incompetence — a staple of the NHL playoffs every year — may have cost the Columbus Blue Jackets any chance of rallying to win their first-round series with the Pittsburgh Penguins. And Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski will have the scars to prove it for quite some time.
With the Blue Jackets leading 3-2 in the second period of Game 3, the Penguins’ Phil Kessel attempted a shot that rode up Werenski’s stick and hit him in the face. The impact dropped him to the ice. Ten seconds later, with Werenski gushing blood, Bryan Rust tied the game at 3.
It’s customary for officials to whistle a play dead when a player has suffered a serious injury, even if the other team has a scoring opportunity. What do you think? Was Werenski’s injury serious?
Officials who let play continue were like David Spade in Tommy Boy after he cracked Chris Farley in the face with a board.
“Hey, refs, do I have a mark on my face? It really hurts.”
“Nope, nothing. I thought the puck hit you in the shoulder.”
The NHL, of course, refused to admit fault for allowing play to continue.
Werenski returned to the game wearing a full shield but did not play in overtime, and the Penguins would win 5-4 and take a 3-0 series lead.
Werenski earned high praise from his coach.
That’s a metaphor. Werenski’s balls were unaffected by the puck to the face.
The Blue Jackets’ season will probably end in the next few days, but Werenski will have a lifetime to remember that a puck slicing open his face and damaging his vision wasn’t serious enough for referees to stop a game the Blue Jackets could have won.