Even with the final score being 4-1, Game 6 between the Blues and Stars on Sunday was not without controversy. With about 12 minutes remaining in the third period, Blues defenseman Colton Parayko slapped a shot on goal. The puck made its way directly onto Stars goalie Ben Bishop’s collarbone, and the impact caused him to fall to the ice almost immediately. There was no signal from the officials to stop the game so St. Louis’ Alexander Steen recovered the puck and fired it towards the net where Jaden Schwartz was in position to deflect it in to double the Blues’ lead.
Where someone stands on this issue seems to be pretty dependent on what someone thinks of Ben Bishop as a player. Those who think of Bishop as a dirty flopper believe that the Blues followed conventional wisdom in not stopping until they heard a whistle, and just took advantage of a sleeping Dallas defense.(Those people are also arguing that Bishop got what he deserved, but that’s not too relevant here). Those who don’t think that way of him believe that the officials picked a bad time to swallow their whistles when there was an injured player squirming on the ice. For what it’s worth, Stars coach Jim Montgomery appeared to be fine with the non-call after the game.
Kay Whitmore, the referee series supervisor, told reporters that the biggest factors in the non-call were possession and the speed of the play. Had the puck gone to the corner for a 50-50 battle, or landed cleanly to a Stars player, it would have blown dead. The fact that it went straight to a Blues player without interruption, and led to an immediate scoring opportunity, pressured officials to swallow their whistles, according to Whitmore. He also said that officials determined the injury was not serious enough to stop the game immediately. Sean Shapiro of The Athletic also suggested that if Bishop had taken off his helmet, the officials would have intervened.
There are plenty of arguments against that explanation for how the rules were interpreted. The officials could have blown the whistle when the puck was in the air for a few seconds, the play wasn’t as “bang-bang” as Whitmore tries to make it out to be, and one has to wonder what exactly qualifies as an “obvious” injury—which the NHL rulebook specifies as a reason for an official to stop play.—if what happened to Bishop doesn’t fall under that category.
With that being the case, this is less of an issue of poor sportsmanship on the Blues’ part, as some are making it out to be, and more of a problem with how officials are trained by the league to look at the game. The fact that the NHL will probably be able point to the rules that prove how this play was judged correctly shows just where the game is at when it comes to caring about player safety.