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Graney: Officials take center stage for Golden Knights-Canadiens

Stop us if you have heard this before: There is a playoff series being contested in professional sports where a vast majority of fans on one side believe the officiating stinks.

Kevin Durant is also good at basketball.

If you are of the mind Canadians loathe a long winter, consider what they are saying about the Stanley Cup semifinal between the Golden Knights and Montreal.

The best-of-seven series is tied 2-2 with Game 5 on Tuesday night at T-Mobile Arena. To hear those from the land of maple syrup, Montreal is fortunate to have not yet been eliminated.

Reason: They are all sorts of bitter against those wearing whistles. Fighting mad to the point of drawing a penalty.

Which, of course, they don’t believe would ever be assessed against the Knights.

A deciding factor?

This is the how I evaluate officiating: Has it — one way or the other — directly influenced the outcome of a game? It hasn’t in this series. Take every missed or wrong call on both sides and things still would be tied at two games apiece.

It appears the Montreal faithful is most angered with official Chris Lee, a Canadian whom Habs fans believe moonlights as the guy dressed as a Golden Knight during pregame festivities at T-Mobile Arena.

Has the officiating tilted in favor of the Knights? Absolutely.

Montreal has been awarded six power plays in the four games.

The Knights have 11.

Now, given how woeful the Knights are with an advantage, the Canadiens should want to play the entire game a man down and just push for 60 minutes of short-handed opportunities. Might win in a rout.

Point is, there hasn’t been the type of double minor or major penalty that often determines which side skates off victorious. Cody Eakin plays elsewhere.

Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault was questioned Monday about the officiating, which is worth a laugh. Expecting him to take a stand one way or the other is comparable to asking who he prefers in net between Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner.

Or if center Chandler Stephenson is staring at the horizon off St. Lucia or Santorini.

“Obviously, both sides will be disappointed with some calls,” Marchessault said. “There is stuff they will let go and not let go. Good teams find a way to get through the adversity.”

I hope the person who first said fewer infractions should be called because it’s playoff hockey is the same who said officials should swallow their whistles in the last few minutes of an NBA game. I would hate to think there could be more than one person that dumb.

Do you know what happens when you start picking and choosing which penalties to call based on it being a postseason game? Chaos. Blatant inconsistency. Players having no clue about what they can and can’t do on the ice.

Just call what you see. If a player such as Knights defenseman Brayden McNabb punches Montreal forward Nick Suzuki in the face, call it. If a defenseman such as Joel Edmundson of the Canadiens cross-checks William Carrier into the boards, call it.

If a high stick by Marchessault makes Corey Perry’s face look like something out of “Saw IV,” call it.

Welcome to forever

You can blame the NHL some for having officials Lee and Dan O’Rourke work Games 3 and 4. The league’s reasoning is travel restrictions because of COVID-19. Then get more bodies in your bubble.

It’s ridiculous that part of a crew so harshly criticized after one game works the next of the same series. Amateur hour.

Just leave it here: When a specific call determines whether one side wins or loses, then talk officiating.

Until then, welcome to how things have been for, well, forever.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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