Will the Game 7 officials strike a balance between 'letting them play' and making the obvious calls?

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By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

The NHL is sticking with the same officials from Game 6 for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. Good news overall, but still a challenge ahead for Gord Dwyer and Chris Rooney.

Game 5 featured an inexcusable officiating mistake from Kelly Sutherland's crew to miss an obvious trip on Noel Acciari. That the league is running Dwyer and Rooney out there for a second straight game, per John Shannon of Sportsnet, is essentially an admission of the egregious nature of Sutherland's mistake.

Dwyer and Rooney did a much better job in Game 6 on Sunday. That's to say they didn't become a big part of the story. Fans and viewers quibbled with some of the calls and non-calls, which is inevitable with any big game. But there were no major errors.

Ultimately, the officials need to strike a fine balance between making the clear and obvious calls that need to be made, and adhering to the adage of Letting Them Play™. They strayed way too far in the latter direction in the third period of Game 5. And at the same time, "letting them play" should be about letting the ticky-tack stuff go, which Sutherland's crew did not do when they sent Brad Marchand to the box for whacking Jordan Binnington in the pants.

Referee Gord Dwyer announces a third period goal for Ryan O'Reilly (not pictured) of the St. Louis Blues after video replay against the Boston Bruins in Game 6 of the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Enterprise Center on June 09, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Referee Gord Dwyer announces a third period goal for Ryan O'Reilly (not pictured) of the St. Louis Blues after video replay against the Boston Bruins in Game 6 of the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Enterprise Center on June 09, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Despite the Bruins' superiority on the power play compared to the Blues, the hope remains that the Game 7 officials will err on the side of letting the players decide the game. There's some clear and present danger there, particularly with the Blues and their ex-enforcer head coach.

Craig Berube expressed disappointment after Game 6 that the inherently physical Blues were ... not physical enough? Via Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic, Berube believes some of his players "held back because of the possibility of suspension". Brayden Schenn obviously didn't get that memo.

But that's why if the Blues are going to continue to tiptoe on the line, that's why the officials need to remind them that if they cross it then game misconducts are still a thing. Robert Bortuzzo learned that the hard way at the end of Game 6.

Either way, you can expect the physicality to ramp up from the St. Louis end in Game 7. So it'll be on Dwyer and Rooney to make sure they blow their whistles when absolutely necessary, and at the same time avoid falling for guys trying to sell calls or letting the crowd influence them or whistling inconsequential and incidental contact.

In other words, don't be the story after the game. Let the players decide their own fate. Let them decide how far they want to step over the line, and adjudicate accordingly.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].