Friday, April 17, 2009

Around the League: Do You Agree With Iron Mike. . .?

This is not actually going to be an opinion piece. It's just a thought starter. Whether you choose to respond or just ponder on your own, that's fine. But in the NHL it's going to be an ever burning question, it seems. And it always seems to hit its controversial peak during playoff time.

Just what is goaltender interference?

We watched a Stanley Cup get awarded after a controversial goal scored by Brett Hull in the Buffalo crease in 1999. Whether it was or was not a legitimate goal remains up for debate - although I bet we all know where Buffalo and Dallas fans respectively stand on the argument. But the end result was not. Due to the fact that it was overtime, and the next goal would either force the series to a game seven, or award the cup to the Stars, there was little time to react to much. Except madness. The goal went in, Dallas celebrated, and there was no time for anything to be corrected; whether it needed to be or not, I am not here to suggest. That's not the point.

Last night in game one after Chicago's Marty Havlat scored the game winning goal in overtime on Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff, Chicago celebrated while Calgary was left to seethe over what they thought was goaltender interference from Andrew Ladd.

Keenan later referenced both the Hull goal in Buffalo and the fact that the referees either saw last night's goal differently or couldn't make a call in all the excitement of the victory. Agree or disagree on the call, the fact remains that it becomes near impossible - it would seem - to make a call in overtime of that nature. History would seem to show that.

And I asked just what is goaltender interference, because honestly, I am not sure what to think at this current point in the modern history of the sport.

Back in 1999, it was okay to be in the crease, as long as you didn't proceed the puck into it. After the Hull Stanley Cup winner, the next season saw goals disallowed if a player had the toe of his skate in the crease, even if it had nothing to do with the play at hand. Then it regressed into it being okay to have a toe in the crease, as long as it didn't interfere with the play.

In the years that followed, especially those post-lockout, those rules have pretty much been tossed away. It became, in my watching of this game, more of a judgement call on the parts of the referees as to whether or not the person in the crease actually interfered with the goaltenders ability to get to the puck, and if he did, whether or not it was his own fault that he collided with the goalie or that of an outside force. And that judgement call can vary from person to person.

That's a dangerous game, NHL referees trying to discern the affects of physics.

In the November Rangers/Capitals game earlier this year there was a goal of such controversy. It appeared evident on video review that Lundqvist could not make the save because he was being tied up on the other side of the crease by a Caps player. To me, that is interference. At the time I called it a perfect example of a clip that should be sent to the league and shown to all referees of what was, indeed, goalie interference. If a goalie cannot get across to make a stop because a player is preventing him from doing so AND that player entered the crease of his own free will, that is textbook interference in its most basic form.

Now very recently, like a week ago recently, we saw Markus Naslund get called for goaltender interference as he played the puck towards the front of the net attempting to score and collided with the goalie as he was doing the same. It was merely an example of two players going at a puck and in no way should have been viewed as anything more than a hockey play. Yet it was called.

I'm sure fans of every team can come up with their own examples of ways it has worked for and against their own team. Positive.

Hell, I'll seen more calls of goalie interference where no goal has resulted than I have when a goal does result this year. It is those that seem silly to harbor such attention over, and yet it does happen. But it is the ones where a goal is scored - and scored in overtime in the playoffs - that it can get tricky.

I could share my opinion on the Ladd/Kipper incident. My immediate reaction was, oh, Kipper didn't really get over on that shot from Havlat. I didn't realize why until the replay. And Ladd appeared to be competing for position with the D in front although how or who first made contact is harder to see.

Look, I think it's a hard call. I think some - I stress some - of these calls are hard. Maybe sometimes there is no right or wrong answer. BUT...

I just hope that when crunch time comes in the playoffs - in overtime - the right calls are given opportunity to be made. Whether a team is celebrating or not, whether the call is the popular one or not. For the sake of both teams and for the integrity of the game, which sometimes, walks a very fine line.

Just something to think about as we get set for some game 2s to take place this evening. Enjoy the action...

1 comment:

Kerri said...

I was thrilled to see the Blackhawks win.

That said, it was at home... in overtime... could that have influenced the call? Like you said, it's next to impossible to overturn the call under those circumstances.

IDK, it's a tough one. If it was Marty Brodeur being run into would it have changed the decision? If it was a home game for the Flames, would it have changed the decision?

There's something wrong with officiating in general when guys like Crosby and Ovechkin always seem to get the breaks and guys like Avery, rep or not, never seem too. An infraction is an infraction, and I hate giving the refs too much discretion. How often to games in Montreal seem to be called like the Habs can do no wrong? It's really not even their fault... the league tells them to target the guys with reps, and it's hard to ignore the influence of the crowd.

But like you said, when a play determines the winner of a huge game one in the playoffs... well, we better hope their making the right calls.

I have a problem with goaltender interference these days, anyway. Goalies can stand by the hash marks and then cry when someone bumps them. Come on, goaltenders, be men. This is hockey. Yeah, you're gonna get pushed around.