On April 30th, the Capitals fell to the Penguins 2-1 in regulation in Game two of the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Capitals fans were disgruntled to say the least in regards to a disallowed goal, caused by an Evgeny Kuznetsov penalty for goalie interference. Based on the ruling in the NHL rulebook, the call on the ice could have gone either way.
Unfortunately, the Caps are not new to this situation. Last season in round 2 versus the Rangers, the Caps were disallowed a goal on an interference call on Joel Ward. As you may recall, all 30 of the NHL’s General Managers reviewed that play at last summer’s GM meetings, and determined the goal should have been a good goal.
Last night, Coach Trotz stated after the game, he was not exactly sure if the Caps were able to challenge the call:
“We were trying to get some time to see if it was reviewable or not. I actually just wanted an explanation of why there was a penalty. I thought it was incidental contact because I think Murray, as you see Kuzy makes a hockey play, Murray sort of puts his paddle down so if you skate, anyone puts their paddle under your blade, you’re going down and he fell on Murray. We shoot at the net and the referee puts his hand up and that’s not reviewable. And I want an explanation I wasn’t really getting that I was getting screamed at “do you want your time out or not?” and that was probably it was hard to hear so we were trying to make sure if the arm was up we were looking at different views. I felt like we got a little bit of a double whammy when I thought it should have been a goal. But, the referee saw it a little different. You know, I get to look at 20 replays and they look at it in real-time and have to make a quick decision so that’s what it was.”
Based on the NHL Rulebook, Rule 69.1 – (1), it is stated that “Goals should be disallowed only if an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal.” By the book, Kuznetsov falling on Murray impaired his ability to move in the crease, and prevented him from making the save. Murray’s upper torso was landed on by Kuznetsov, who was in the crease at the time of contact. Based on these two factors, the goal should have been disallowed.
Into the Gray
The gray area of the call is the penalization of Evgeny Kuznetsov for the contact on the goaltender. Rule 69.3 has a clause that states: “If, after any contact by a goalkeeper who is attempting to establish position in his goal crease, the attacking player does not immediately vacate his current position in the goal crease (i.e. give ground to the goalkeeper), and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed. In all such cases, whether or not a goal is scored, the attacking player will receive a minor penalty for goalkeeper interference.” An argument can be made that the contact by Kuznetsov was avoidable, and that he didn’t make a significant effort to vacate the crease when the rebound was scored. There is no additional clause in Rule 69.3 that states that the call can be up to the Referee’s discretion, so based on the exact wording on this rule, the call on the ice was a good call if the Referee decided that Kuznetsov didn’t make an attempt to clear the ice.
In a game, it is not as quick and easy as it may seem for a player who falls on another player to get up or move quickly. Based on the way Kuznetsov fell, it would not have been easy for him to vacate the crease quickly enough to get off of Murray by the time the goal was scored, and therefore should have fallen under Rule 69.2 of the rulebook, which states that a penalty should only be given due to intentional or avoidable contact. Rule 69.2 also has a clause that leaves penalties up to a Referee’s discretion. Depending on the perspective of the Referee, the call could have gone either way, but the main key to remember is that Kuznetsov was in the crease at the time of contact.
To conclude, from an (attempted) unbiased perspective, the goal should have definitely been disallowed, but the penalty is up in the air. It was kind of shocking to see a goalie interference penalty called on this play, but based on the ruling it is something that could have gone either way. This call, and the implications of the call at such a critical time in the game, makes a strong case for reviewable calls for goaltender interference penalties such as these. We should expect to see rule changes soon due to these situations.
By Justin Green