By The Book, Malkin Goal Was Good.
‘Goaltender Interference’ has been the buzz term around the NHL once again this week.
Perhaps it has been the buzz term for the whole of the season, so prevalent has the subject been during the 2017/18 campaign. It’s the issue that just won’t go away, as players, pundits and fans alike struggle to grasp what is, and what is not, goaltender interference.
InGoal Magazine has covered the subject on several occasions already this season – as well as taking a comprehensive look at the NHL’s goaltender interference rules last spring (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) – while the 31 General Managers sought to get a handle on the situation by referring all reviews to the NHL’s ‘war room’ in Toronto moving forward.
With those changes to how goaltender interference reviews will be handled now all but made (just the rubber stamp required), there was certainly an element of black humour involved when the Pittsburgh Penguins bundled home their opening goal against the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night.
To say the decision was controversial would be an understatement:
As the video shows, referee Ian Walsh did not hesitate to signal a goal, Evgeni Malkin’s 41st of the year.
The controversy lies in Malkin’s obvious contact with Montreal goaltender Carey Price just before the puck went into the net; with Malkin colliding with the Canadiens #1 as his momentum carries him first into Price before seeing the puck deflected into the net off the back of his leg.
It looks odd to say the least. A simplistic view would be that Malkin interfered with Price’s ability to stop the puck. But this would be an incorrect assumption, with the NHL’s own rule book – specifically Rule 69.7 – covering exactly this kind of situation:
69.7 Rebounds and Loose Pucks – In a rebound situation, or where a goalkeeper and attacking player(s) are simultaneously attempting to play a loose puck, whether inside or outside the crease, incidental contact with the goalkeeper will be permitted, and any goal that is scored as a result thereof will be allowed.
In the event that a goalkeeper has been pushed into the net together with the puck by an attacking player after making a stop, the goal will be disallowed. If applicable, appropriate penalties will be assessed. If, however, in the opinion of the Referee, the attacking player was pushed or otherwise fouled by a defending player causing the goalkeeper to be pushed into the net together with the puck, the goal can be permitted.
In the event that the puck is under a player in or around the crease area (deliberately or otherwise), a goal cannot be scored by pushing this player together with the puck into the goal. If applicable, the appropriate penalties will be assessed, including a penalty shot if deemed to be covered in the crease deliberately (see Rule 63 – Delaying the Game).
Price was not pushed into the net with the puck, nor was the puck under Malkin, making the second and third parts of the rule irrelevant in this situation.
The first part is key however:
In a rebound situation, or where a goalkeeper and attacking player(s) are simultaneously attempting to play a loose puck, whether inside or outside the crease, incidental contact with the goalkeeper will be permitted, and any goal that is scored as a result thereof will be allowed.
Carl Hagelin’s initial shot creates a rebound situation – so let’s plant a nice big tick next to that one – and the rule stipulates that it is not relevant where the incident takes place (e.g. inside or outside the crease).
Now we come to the meat of the issue.
The rebound from Hagelin’s initial shot creates a loose puck situation:
At this point Price can be seen following the puck visually, but yet to push towards it to follow the play, while Malkin is located at around the face-off dot.
It is important to note that Price is also off balance at this point, having been caught with his rear too close to the ice when making his initial save on Hagelin, limiting his ability to recover.
In an attempt to make a quick play/direct the puck on net while Price is recovering, Malkin dives for the puck in an attempt to swat it towards the goal with his stick:
Malkin does make contact with the loose puck, directing it goal-wards with the shaft of his stick, before turning his upper body slightly to protect himself – a not unreasonable action with Price coming across his crease in an uncontrolled manner and other players coming towards the net.
The momentum Malkin has then carries him into Price, with his leg eventually knocking the loose puck into the goal.
The end result of this rebound situation, where Price (the goalkeeper) and Malkin (the attacking player) are simultaneously attempting to play a loose puck, is that Malkin makes contact with the puck before he makes contact with Price, and the manner of the contact which follows can be considered to be incidental.
Per Rule 69.7, there is no reason to rule this goal out. It certainly isn’t a pretty goal, but it is a ‘good’ goal, by the book.
To call it a ‘bungled’ call, or any variation thereof, would be unfair. The on-ice call was correct, and further review of the video footage simply backs that up.
Whilst there are situations where goaltender interference can still seem to inhabit some kind of grey area, this is not one of them, even if it might leave a sour taste in some fans mouth’s.