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Price return shutout aided by (correct) goalie interference call

Carey Price returned to action for the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday November 25, recording 36 saves in a 3-0 win against the Buffalo Sabres at the Centre Bell.

The result wasn’t without a bit of controversy, though. Buffalo’s Evander Kane (9) appeared to ruin Price’s shutout with less than a minute remaining in regulation.

Instead, Kane became the latest NHLer to have a goal disallowed on the basis of goalkeeper interference.

Following a scramble to Price’s right, Buffalo’s Ryan O’Reilly (90) collects the puck behind the net and sends it to Zemgus Girgensons (28) at the right point. Sam Reinhart (23), in front of the net, deflects Girgensons’ slapshot to Kane, who is set up on Price’s right. Kane controls the deflection, and deposits it in the back of the net past a reaching Price.


On replay review, it was determined that Reinhart had interfered with Price, and Kane’s goal was taken off the board.

As with any disallowed goal, reactions were mixed.

If it’s true that no other goalie gets this call but Price, then that’s going to have to change, because this is goalie interference.

When O’Reilly makes his pass, and Girgensons winds up to shoot, Reinhart looks to establish himself in a position to screen Price and deflect the shot from the point.

Reinhart’s path puts his left skate temporarily within the crease, and it lightly brushes against Price’s right pad. It doesn’t appear that there is any displacement of Price’s pad or skate. Reinhart’s skate blade is barely outside the crease at this point, while Price is still within it. The point of contact between Reinhart’s boot and Price’s pad is also within the crease.

On plays like this, an argument is sometimes made that Price’s push forward to challenge the shot from the point is what actually initiates the contact between the two players. In fact, Price has the right to establish his position within the crease, even if he initiates contact with an opposing player already in position.

Technically, then, this is already interference. However, if Reinhart had stopped here, and disengaged from Price, it’s still possible that a subsequent goal would have been allowed to stand.

When Reinhart continues his path across the top of the crease, however, his elbow makes contact with the right side of Price’s head, twisting and pushing it to the left. Some might contest the replay ruling by arguing that, since Price’s head projects over the crease line and Reinhart is outside the crease at the time of impact, this contact in fact occurred outside the crease, and therefore the goal should have been allowed. From Rule 69.1:

This is where the exact phrasing in the rule needs to be examined.

Does Reinhart make only “incidental contact” with Price, and does he make a “reasonable effort” to avoid the contact? The initial brief contact that Reinhart’s skate makes with Price’s pad could, in fact, be considered within the scope of the rule. Unfortunately for Reinhart and Kane, that’s not where the contact stops.

As he crosses the top of the crease, Reinhart makes no attempt to locate Price, even though his intent is clearly to bring himself into at least a close proximity with the Habs goaltender. (He does, after all, manipulate the position of his left skate so that it is just outside the crease line, likely so that he can maintain that he was out of the crease if any contact happens to occur.)

Yes, Reinhart’s elbow is there because that’s where it is when he holds his stick. However, Rule 69 emphasizes the goalie’s right to play his position unimpeded, not the attacking player’s. It also places the responsibility on the attacking player to make at least a “reasonable” effort to avoid contact with the goaltender, which Reinhart does not. He makes no effort to rotate the left side of his body or his left elbow away from Price’s potential position. He only disengages from his intended path when he moves to deflect Girgensons’ shot. By then, he has already displaced Price’s blocker and stick with his left knee, and contacted Price’s head with his left elbow.

In fact, an argument could be made that Reinhart should have been assessed a penalty for goaltender interference under the definition of an illegal check to the head.

This would be warranted by any contact deemed to be “deliberate” under Rule 69.2.

Is this a little extreme in this case? Maybe, maybe not.

It certainly wouldn’t be if the Habs were suddenly to announce that Carey Price were going to miss games because of an “upper body” injury (fingers crossed that isn’t the case). It’s important to remember that today’s NHL goalies are uniquely vulnerable to head contact.

A goalie should not be considered to be “(putting) himself in a vulnerable position” because of the modern demands of playing the position. (We made this same argument last spring, when we felt Victor Arvidssen had interfered with Corey Crawford on Filip Forsberg’s game 3 goal for Nashville. That goal was allowed to stand, so this ruling is at least an improvement.)

While it might be unreasonable to assess that Reinhart’s contact with Price was “deliberate,” it’s equally unreasonable to make the case that this is only allowable “incidental” contact, or that Reinhart makes any “reasonable” effort to avoid Price. Therefore, even if one considers the contact with Price to be outside of the crease, Kane’s goal was correctly disallowed.

Before we wrap up, one additional counterargument worth examination is whether Reinhart could be considered to be playing a loose puck.

Rule 69.7 does allow for the right of an attacking player to play a rebound or a loose puck.

The key words here are “incidental” and “simultaneous.” As we’ve already argued, it’s hard to make a case that Reinhart’s contact with Price is incidental. A quick review of the timing on the play shows that his disruptive interaction with Price occurs before the Sabres forward makes any clear attempt to play the puck. Though invoking Rule 69.7 might have made an interesting counterargument for consideration, it would not have been sufficient to allow Kane’s goal to stand.

So, in summary, we agree with the NHL replay officials that Evander Kane’s apparent goal late in regulation on November 25 should have been disallowed because of goaltender interference on Carey Price by Kane’s Buffalo teammate, Sam Reinhart.

Here at InGoal, we’ll continue to review interesting goaltender interference rulings throughout the season. We promise that we’ll contest interpretations that we think are incorrect, even if they involve Carey Price. This just wasn’t one of them.

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