After a long and tough season, the Stanley Cup is finally set. Majority of hockey fans are looking forward to seeing if their favorite team can win it all or not. The storylines will be endless as this year’s bracket is loaded with potential playoff matchups that have been talked about for months now.
The “stanley cup playoffs 2022 schedule” is the Stanley Cup playoffs that are scheduled to take place in 2022.
THE BOSTON BRUINS are playing the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs in Raleigh, North Carolina. Tensions rise early in the game as Boston winger David Pastrnak collides with Carolina goaltender Antti Raanta, putting him out with a bloodied face. At practically every whistle, scrums (and more) develop. Four Bruins players are in the penalty box at one time. Boston also loses a player in the second period, as defender Hampus Lindholm leaves the game after taking a big hit from Andrei Svechnikov.
It seems like things might spiral out of control at any time.
This is postseason hockey. For players, coaches, and spectators alike, the stakes are high, emotions are strong, and the excitement is palpable. With the same teams competing night after night, there is greater physicality and familiarity. According to the NHL, playoff games have seen 45 percent more hitting than regular-season games during the last decade.
There have been many contentious cross-checks, a bloody fight, an expulsion and a one-game punishment for boarding, and multiple goaltender interference reviews just this playoffs.
The game officials’ role, among their many other responsibilities, is to maintain a lid on everything and prevent the tinderbox from exploding. Meanwhile, “Ref, you suck!” has become the default shout at hockey arenas throughout North America.
Back up six weeks. “It’s time to speak about officiating,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told the league’s general managers at their annual meeting in Florida in late March.
The men in blue had had a difficult week, with two apparent missed calls late in Coyotes-Maple Leafs and Oilers-Capitals games, both immediately before game-winning goals. Gabriel Landeskog, captain of the Colorado Avalanche, had a fiery press conference, saying: “In 11 years, I’ve never sat in a press conference and spoken about referees. However, there are moments when players must state their minds.”
The first and second rounds will be televised on ESPN and ESPN2, with one conference finals series on ESPN and the Stanley Cup Final on ABC. • How to View • • Watch the NHL on ESPN with an ESPN+ subscription
According to several people at the March session, Bettman stood at the front of the ballroom at the Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa and acknowledged that the league’s officiating isn’t perfect.
“”You all know how hard the officials work, how tough the game is to officiate, and how rigorously the officials are scrutinized,” Bettman said to the 32 general managers. Do you have reservations about specific calls or situations? My phone line is always available.”
Then came a warning: “If you openly criticize the authorities, you will be penalized.”
Officiating is still a touchy subject for the league, and the scrutiny will only intensify as the playoffs go and the stakes get even higher. However, Bettman’s decision was far from retaliatory. According to league officials, the commissioner has given this speech thousands of times throughout his 29 years in office. He’ll do it four times more this spring.
Bettman has a required call with coaches and general managers before each round of the playoffs, reminding them that airing frustrations about officiating publicly is not constructive for anybody.
Privately? Officiating is a considerably more complicated subject.
THE MOST COMMON COMPLAINT regarding officiating during the playoffs is that officials seem to put their whistles away and don’t call violations that should be called. That is not the case, according to the league. Officials are instructed to call the standard in the opening five minutes and in overtime by NHL director of officiating Stephen Walkom and Bettman.
“I believe the problem is that spectators aren’t accustomed to seeing everyone complete their checks,” said Dave Jackson, a veteran NHL referee who now works as an ESPN rules commentator. “Everyone is backchecking, striking harder, being more physical, and having a lot less time and space.”
Once the playoffs begin, the character of games alters.
“I don’t believe the officials call the game differently in the playoffs; I believe the players play the game differently,” remarked Doug Armstrong of the St. Louis Blues. “There is more fury over a soft judgment than overturning a close call. Maybe it’s old school, but I believe you want to earn your penalties. However, we want to ensure that [Ryan] O’Reilly, [Vladimir] Tarasenko, [Robert] Thomas, and [Jordan] Kyrou have the capacity to accomplish for us what they did all season. That’s what we want, and the fans want it as well.”
The data refutes the concept that referees put their whistles away during the playoffs. The playoffs have had more power-play chances per game than the regular season in eight of the last ten seasons. Teams averaged 4.18 power plays per game during the first 28 games of this playoffs (an admittedly small sample size); the league average during the regular season was 2.89.
Some critics feel great players should be better safeguarded in the playoffs, citing Connor McDavid’s performance in Edmonton’s first-round defeat in 2021 as an example. Despite some casual observers estimating as many as two dozen possible violations, McDavid did not get a single penalty in 211 minutes.
In Game 1 of the Maple Leafs-Lightning series, referee Dan O’Rourke separates Toronto’s Ilya Lyubushkin and Tampa Bay’s Corey Perry. USA TODAY Sports/John E. Sokolowski
McDavid has averaged 1.41 penalties per 60 minutes in the regular season since 2016-17. During the same time period, the amount of penalties per 60 minutes has reduced to 0.72.
Interestingly, such figures do not apply to all superstar athletes. Brad Marchand and Auston Matthews’ penalty draw percentages have decreased during their careers in the playoffs. In the meanwhile, Tarasenko, Alex Ovechkin, and Steven Stamkos have all had their penalty draw percentages rise throughout the playoffs.
Teams understand that they have no influence over how the game is called and must stick to their preferred style of play regardless.
Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas stated, “It’s on to us to push our players to play hard, go to the net front, fight harder there, and earn those things.” “And the playoffs should be even tougher.”
Of all, every official’s work includes receiving complaints about their performance. ESPN asked 15 players and coaches for their thoughts on officials, promising them anonymity so they could be candid.
Only a few players were crucial. One senior winger commented, “I believe the consistency can be a joke at times.”
While one head coach told ESPN that he is typically satisfied with the officiating situation, he believes makeup calls are prevalent.
The coach remarked, “You’ll see it all the time.” “The officials make an early decision. Then you sit back and wait for the next ticky-tacky borderline violation to be called against the other side. That always appears to be the case.”
The bulk of the comments, though, echoed this statement from a veteran NHL defender. In the midst of a postgame press conference, there is a degree of empathy for officials that is sometimes overlooked.
The defender said, “I honestly have no concerns with officiating.” “No matter how upset I get on the ice — and you can see it because I shout at linesmen and officials all the time — they’re just trying to perform their job like I am.” They’ll make errors, just as I’ll make mistakes.
“At the end of the day, the linesmen’s duty is to safeguard us, which is a thankless task. I could definitely do better if I expressed my thanks, since they do an excellent job of looking after us. The referees are then the refs. Some good people make mistakes, and some bad people call good people. You can never win a job like that. You’ve probably heard me when someone calls a penalty on me and I start throwing f-bombs at them. Then everything settles down, and I typically apologize because, at the end of the day, I respect them.”
Last March, NHL referee Tim Peel was caught on a hot mic after issuing a tripping penalty to Nashville player Viktor Arvidsson during a game between the Predators and the Red Wings. Peel was overheard remarking, “It wasn’t much.” “However, I wanted to get an f—-ing penalty against Nashville as soon as possible.”
The remarks sparked outrage in the hockey community, prompting a chorus of condemnation from those who think makeup calls occur. Peel, who was set to retire in a month, did not work another NHL game. Peel’s statements were denounced by League vice president Colin Campbell, who said there was no excuse “no matter the context or purpose.”
It was a public relations nightmare that fueled the perception that authorities control the game.
“For a lot of people, it appears to be the default,” Walkom added. “However, nothing could be farther from the truth. You’re in charge of conditions, but not of the game.”
Officials are “controlling the game,” but not in the manner that many spectators think.
“I despise the fact that the phrase’manage the game’ has taken on a negative meaning,” Jackson, the former referee, stated. “When you manage someone or anything, you’re managing emotions and personalities. You don’t have any preconceived notions about what I want this game to be. You just accept what is handed to you and do the best you can with the resources at your disposal.”
One of the most noticeable aspects of an NHL game between the benches is the continual talk between referees, players, and coaches. Linesmen and benches are communicating about line adjustments. Referees are on hand to answer inquiries and clarify situations.
“All of it is critical for the game’s continual flow,” Walkom added.
Then there’s the on-ice communication, which mostly takes place after the whistle. Officials are removing players from scrums and skating alongside them, acting as traffic cops, parents, and counselors.
It’s one of the reasons Walkom doesn’t think pulling officials off the ice and replacing them with technology or a “eye in the sky” viewpoint, which has been discussed at league meetings, would work. The human aspect cannot be removed, and it is not always desired. Another important factor is sight lines. At ice level, making a decision is much easy.
“There are always all kinds of suggestions on how to employ technology,” Walkom added. “It’s constantly debated among GMs and the competition committee.” “It all boils down to how flawless you want the game to be. Was the game supposed to be flawless?
“The more continuous north-south hockey with more scoring opportunities, goals, and talents, the better for the fans. We must keep in mind that the game is for the viewers as much as the players. We must be cautious about how much we intervene.”
Jackson noted that officials have various weapons at their disposal when it comes to regulating the game, and one of those tools is penalties. Referees commonly impose unsportsmanlike conduct penalties if scrums or crowds get out of hand following whistles to calm things down. If necessary, they may also call 10-minute misconducts.
The league claims that there is never an order to keep things level, or approximately even.
“Most officials don’t leave the stadium thinking, ‘That was a well-called game if both sides received two penalties apiece,’” says one official. Walkom explained. “‘Did you call the game fairly?’ you ask as you exit the game. It may not seem fair to spectators or teams if one team receives six penalties while the other receives one. But if there were just six penalties in one direction and one in the other, you’d perform your job and be encouraged in doing it.”
The official’s mindset is sometimes overlooked in discussions regarding officiating.
“It’s incredibly difficult emotionally because everyone tells us we’re hurting the game,” Jackson remarked. “The only thing that keeps us sane is when Walkom gives us daily emails saying, ‘If you call the standard, we’ll support you,’” says one employee chevalier.
WORKING AS AN OFFICIAL IS HARD. The majority of them travel 20 days every month.
“There are 41 home games for the players,” Jackson remarked. “You could get five home games if you reside in an NHL city. You’re also handling your own laundry, hotel reservations, and vehicle rentals.”
Officials are continually evaluated by the league, in addition to the in-game criticism from players and coaches and the outcry from spectators. Every game has a logger assigned to it who records every call, as well as any possible missed calls. Officials get a written assessment at the halfway point of the season that encompasses their judgment, professionalism, skating, and fitness.
During one of numerous tense arguments between the Hurricanes and the Bruins in Game 2, linesman Ryan Galloway attempts to preserve the peace. Getty Images/Grant Halverson
In North America, there has recently been a lack of referees at all levels of hockey, which has been compounded by the epidemic. A more specialized labor was required just as the supply chain was decreasing. The NHL required a new level of officials to keep up with the game as it became quicker and more skillful.
Walkom has begun to attract former players from both college and junior hockey in recent years. Women’s hockey players, he claims, are the largest untapped market. Ten women refereed in the AHL, the NHL’s feeder league, for the first time this year. All of them ladies participated in the NHL’s exposure combine or the NHL Officiating Association’s mentoring program.
The NHL has 11 new officials this season, which is a significant increase from previous years and has left the total pool of officials with less expertise. According to statistics compiled by the website Scouting the Refs, the average number of referees making their debut in a season was four in the decade previous.
What is the primary cause for the high number of rookies? In 2020-21, the NHL did not recruit any new officials. The NHL needed to make some call-ups after five officials retired following last season (three, including Peel, were planned; two suffered career-ending injuries). When officials reach a particular age or show signs of diminishing performance, the league devises a strategy to replace them.
The NHL employs 70 full-time referees, almost all of whom want to serve in the playoffs. A substantial part of it is motivated by personal pride, but there is also a significant financial incentive.
Officials get a hefty incentive for each playoff round they work, but the number of officials working each round is slashed in half. If an official works the Stanley Cup Final, he will be paid at least 25% of his annual pay and up to 40%. (depending on level of experience).
It’s also cutthroat. If an official doesn’t perform, he won’t advance, much like the teams in the playoffs. Officials who worked the second round of the playoffs last year will not be able to participate this year due to poor performance. Nothing is certain.
“You’re going to get the greatest officials in the playoffs,” said Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello. “They’re not going to make the difference. You don’t want anybody in charge of the game. You just want people to call what they saw, not what they think they saw. There are two issues. Don’t try to control the game. And only call what you’re certain about.”
If fans could communicate with authorities, they would be more sympathetic. Imagine if, following a call or no call, the officials explained what they observed from their vantage point and expressed their thoughts on how the game played out. People could simply realize… how normal they are if the authorities talked openly from time to time. And how they just perform their work because they like it.
That isn’t going to happen anytime soon.
“Officials are aware of their responsibilities,” Walkom stated. “It is to have the game called to the league’s standard, to promote fairness and safety, and to maintain the game’s integrity so that players may play at their best.” That is why people come to the rink. They don’t show up to observe the ref being interviewed after the game.
“Officials did not enter the game to become celebrities. They go into it to serve the game, and they do it in such a way that the players can play and the coaches can instruct. Perhaps it is the greatest option for the game.”
The solution, like many things in officiating, isn’t always black and white.
The “stanley cup playoffs 2022 bracket predictions” is a list of the teams that are expected to make the playoffs in 2022.
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