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The Wraparound: Playoff officiating angst rises in Canadiens-Golden Knights series

Peter DeBoer made a controversial decision in benching Marc-Andre Fleury for Robin Lehner in Game 4, but the veteran made his coach look brilliant, standing on his head to push the Knights past the Canadiens.

The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

It’s only human for NHL officials to miss calls during the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, as with any season. And maybe it’s only human to get really mad about it. Especially when it feels like all of the penalty calls are going against your team.

Yet, even by “Seriously, people are never happy about officiating in any sport, including the NHL playoffs” standards, officiating angst is really ramping up during the Canadiens-Golden Knights series.

You know things are getting tense when official Chris Lee becomes someone bordered on a household name, at least in Las Vegas and especially Montreal households.


Again, if you’ve followed the NHL since at least the height of the “Dead Puck Era” -- but really ever -- you’re used to people complaining about playoff officiating. And a lot of those complaints are justified.

Connor McDavid failing to draw a single penalty against the Jets? A little silly. “Letting them play” to the point that games can devolve into a sluggish, icier version of “The Wild West?”

Not ideal, but not exactly a new thing. It seems like every round we get at least one coach trying to needle NHL officials to get playoff advantages, from Bruce Cassidy to Barry Trotz to Peter DeBoer.

Like the summer heat in Vegas, the temperature just seems to be rising higher than usual surrounding playoff officiating, thanks in part to recent Golden Knights - Canadiens clashes.

Top-flight announcer Gord Miller weighed in:

Sportsnet’s Mark Spector described the NHL playoff officiating as “losing the plot.”

Rather than discussing Robin Lehner’s tremendous win in a surprise start, or how the Canadiens dominated Game 4 but lost, playoff officiating dominated the Canadiens-Golden Knights conversation. The zebras, then, become an object of disproportionate focus for Game 5 between the Golden Knights and Canadiens on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN / Peacock).

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 schedule, TV info]

So far, you could argue that the Golden Knights have benefited from the playoff officiating, at least in terms of receiving more power-play opportunities than the Canadiens.

(Might the stingy Habs profit from fewer calls being made, in a subtler, big-picture way? Feels like a mild stretch, but it’s worth mentioning.)

Surprisingly, the disparity was strongest in Montreal.

Game 1: Canadiens 1-for-3 on power play; Golden Knights 0-for-4
Game 2: Canadiens: 0-for-0; Golden Knights 0-for-2
Game 3: Canadiens: 0-for-2; Golden Knights 0-for-4
Game 4: Canadiens: 0-for-1; Golden Knights: 0-for-1

Considering how much the Canadiens’ penalty kill has dominated the Golden Knights’ power play (and other units during the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs), that edge clearly hasn’t meant much for Vegas.

If we see more calls, could it benefit Montreal? Would it open up the series, in general, after two defensive struggles so tight, they almost left you gasping for air?

Yes, it would be better if the focus was on two strong teams playing at a high level. But officiating will be a story in Game 5 of Golden Knights - Canadiens, however the calls shake out.


Game 5: Canadiens at Golden Knights, 9 p.m. ET (Series tied 2-2) - NBCSN / Peacock (livestream)


Game 6: Lightning at Islanders, 8 p.m. ET (TB leads 3-2) - NBCSN / Peacock (livestream)


James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.