John Walton: Referees were 'terrible' in Caps' Game 1 loss

Chris Lingebach
May 29, 2018 - 4:34 pm
John_Carlson_Capitals_Golden Knights_Game 1

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest problem for the Capitals in their 6-4 loss in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final was the referees being "terrible," John Walton says.

Walton's primary issue with the officials came a non-call in the third period, when Vegas winger Ryan Reaves cross-checked Caps defenseman John Carlson to open a scoring lane in front of Braden Holtby. The infraction occurred in full view of the officials, and led immediately to the game-tying goal, one Walton believes should have been disallowed.

"The referees were terrible," Walton told The Sports Junkies, an appearance sponsored by Dominion Jewelers. "I mean, I don't know what's going to happen to Tom Wilson. I had less issue with the hit than the lateness of it, and that's probably going to be an issue. But Ryan Reaves cleans out John Carlson and scores. You know, it's a game-changing goal."

"How did they miss that," Walton was asked.

"I don't know," he replied. "I mean, this is the best stage."

Walton wishes the situation were reviewable, though it is not, and was not reviewed.

"I wish it was," he said. "It's possible that, if they want to talk amongst themselves -- 'Hey, did we miss something?' -- they can do that. That's not a reviewable play on a coach's challenge or anything like that, which is a shame, because the goal shouldn't have happened."

"John Carlson's in the right place and he gets cleaned out with a cross-check," he said. "And then half a beat later, the puck's going in because Reaves suddenly has all the room in the world. Reaves wanted to talk about Wilson last night. That's fine. They should talk about Ryan Reaves, too. And I think it's a little disappointing that for all the focus on Tom Wilson that he always seems to bring, I mean Ryan Reaves is a hulking presence and I love him as a hockey player, but he should have been penalized there and no one was talking about that."

NBC analyst Mike Milbury, too, took umbrage with the missed call, saying after the game it was "unforgivable."

"It is absolutely ludicrous," Milbury said. "This is like a receiver in football pushing down his defensive back in the end zone and catching a touchdown pass by himself."

"It's just unforgivable," he went on. "You've got two officials, one you can see right there. Make the call. You have to make the call. It's a turning point in the game. This is just not right at all. If you're a Washington fan or John Carlson and you think you got bagged, you did. You got sandbagged right here. He's got every right to be this angry at officials who missed it."

Walton does concede officials got the boarding call on Andre Burakovsky correct.

"Burakovsky's penalty hurt," he said. "It's funny, where we were, our angle isn't the best, and you see the hit, and it didn't look too bad at first glance. Then you see the replay from the other side: 'Oh yeah, he tagged him. That's not good.' And it turns into a goal and now you're swimming upstream for the most part the rest of the night."

After witnessing Game 1 at T-Mobile Arena firsthand, Walton has become a believer that the Golden Knights could have the best atmosphere in all of hockey.

"We talk about home-ice advantage a lot in this postseason and the Caps have had such a great road record," Walton said. "There aren't too many places where that intimidating home-ice atmosphere still exists. There's a few places. I mean, I think Capital One is as intimidating as anything in the Eastern Conference. When the Caps are winning, it's as loud a building as anywhere. But I think Vegas might have everybody beat right now.

"Just the energy of the city, and the glitz and glamour when you walk in. I'm still kind of warming up to the whole Medieval Times thing that they do pregame, but it's done pretty well and their in-arena hosts are really good. They never stop skating at you on the ice, and they never stop coming at you -- with every stoppage, they're yelling, screaming, hyping them up all the more. It's a 'Vegas show comes to a hockey game' kind of atmosphere. It's crazy. It's great. I think it's a great decision that the NHL came to the desert. It's done really well."

Asked if the late start time could have thrown the Caps off a bit, Walton said, "I suppose. It's a weird game-day here, too. I think even more than that, and hockey players are creatures of habit -- what was 8:30 in your world, what's not working in my favor this morning, we were playing hockey at 5:30 yesterday, and that means no morning skate. So for the guys who are used to getting up, you get on the bus at 10 in the morning, you're skating at 11:30, you come back to the hotel, you eat, you nap, you go back and it's a 7 o'clock game."

"It's definitely different. And when they had a few days off and they didn't have the morning skate," he added. "That's gonna be the case for both teams in Vegas throughout the series. That's why they're gonna practice today, because you just don't have that same routine, because for national TV purposes. It's a little bit different than what you were thinking, but it does change things. It absolutely does. And when they've got to be able to get it going right off the hop... I didn't think the first 10 minutes were very good last night, but I think part of that was just adjusting to a new team, a new series, a big stage. All of that I think was a factor."

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