Dangerous Net Drives: Should The NHL Be Concerned?
Lack updated fans on his condition via Twitter after the game:
Thanks for all thoughts and prayers?everything looks alright and I’ll be able to go home tonight! Thanks for thinking of me?
— Eddie Lack (@eddielack) March 28, 2017
Athanasiou drove to the net from a wide angle, attempting to cut across the top of the crease to get around Lack. Unfortunately, Hurricanes forward Victor Rask nudged him forward, causing an impact with Lack’s head shortly after the puck crossed the goal line. Lack had already suffered two previous concussions this season, which added to the concern.
Here’s the play if you missed it:
Net drives are always frightening from a goaltender’s standpoint, because you need to respect the short side – but it leaves you vulnerable if the player cuts to the middle like Athanasiou did. Your only option is to essentially push your way out toward the shooter, and brace for impact.
InGoal contributor Mike McKenna, goaltender for the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch, took to Twitter to express his concern for Lack – and disdain for plays like that in general.
Scary for @eddielack. Net drives like that are always a gamble. In practice you can play cautious & protect yourself. Games, not so much.
— Mike McKenna (@MikeMcKenna56) March 28, 2017
It’s certainly a scary moment, especially for a goaltender that has a recent history of head and neck injuries.
Most people will point at the fact that Rask pushed Athanasiou into Lack at full speed (which certainly made it worse), but would the initial path have taken him through the crease as well? It sure looks like it from this angle, just before the push:
While this particular goal counted, players and goaltenders can agree that the crease is a no-fly zone in most situations. Why is it any different for net drives? This type of play is attempted a number of times a game, and it almost always rides the line of the definition of goaltender interference.
Shooters want to maximize their scoring opportunity, but if it comes at the cost of goaltender safety, is this something that the NHL should be looking into?
It may seem like whining, but when you see a goaltender carried off on a stretcher due to a dangerous play like this – it needs to be said. With all of the attention surrounding head injuries in the NHL, and impending lawsuits, it would make sense for the league to also be concerned about plays like this.
Goaltenders deal with a lack of respect around their crease in a number of different ways, but anything dangerous enough to cause this kind of injury should be looked into.