Down 3-0 to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday, Dmitry Orlov of the Washington Capitals completely decimated a rolling puck in the slot over the blocker of Martin Jones for a goal - partially thanks to the great shot, partially thanks to a Jay Beagle screen.
Or, in the minds of referee Tim Peel and the league after some video review, "partially thanks to some interference from Jay Beagle." Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer quickly challenged the on-ice call of "goal," and successfully had the call overturned.
The people wanted coach’s challenges, and we got ‘em, but it’s already clear that the price for getting calls right down the road is going to be some false positives early on.
Here’s the play in question:
And here’s a quality GIF of the play - thanks to Russian Machine Never Breaks for that.
So yeah, Beagle’s actions weren’t exactly heinous.
He pushes into Sharks’ defender Matt Tennyson in an attempt to get ahead of Jones and take away his eyes. In the process of squeezing through a small opening, his pants dust the back of Jones’ glove. Beagle’s stick is elevated after the push on Tennyson, and it comes down and maybe, if only slightly, grazes Jones’ paddle.
It could be my bias as a forward - OK, it is - but I just can’t see any way that such ticky-tack contact could be enough to overturn an official’s initial call on the ice of goal.
That said … it doesn’t matter. Get used to it. Settle in.
The situation with replay is reminiscent of the NHL's battle with obstruction penalties a decade ago. When the NHL came out of the 2004-05 lockout and was vehemently set on killing obstruction, there was only one way to do it: Make more calls early in the first season of the new commitment, particularly on the borderline plays, and let players know this is the new reality - you may not like it, you may be annoyed, but that’s a penalty now, so modify your behavior or sit in the box.
And, for a good while, that’s what players did. They sat in the box, and sat in the box some more, and the calls kept coming until players stopped throwing their sticks across each other’s guts to water-ski through the neutral zone.
Expect the NHL to replicate that with goaltender interference.
If you’re calling goaltender interference exactly as the rule is written - which will be the crutch officials lean on to make their point - just about any and all contact can be a penalty. (Rules 69.1, 69.3 and 69.4, for inquiring minds.)
That means if you touch a left leg pad and the puck goes in on the other side, you limited the power the goalie needed to push off. Touch his stick, congratulations, you changed the location of his blocker, no goal. Bumped a defender into Braden Holtby’s beautiful hair? Wave it off.
There could be a little bit of a '90’s "skate in the crease" feel to it early on. "We scored! Let’s wait to see if it counts!"
It’s not too hard to see why the NHL wants to do this. Goaltenders are hugely important to teams (and big with fans), and with guys skating faster, shooting harder, and still using "crash the net" as a strategy, goalies do need to be protected.
And, as fans, as much as it sucks to have a goal called back, it sucks even more to give one up because some Brendan Gallagher-type sneaks in an ankle poke on your goalie on some lazy wrister.
From the skater’s point of view, I would like to have intent factored in a bit. Beagle was in a pretty innocent area of the ice, pushing up to skate higher, and took no action to alter Jones’ odds of stopping the Orlov blast. (Jones’ reaction also seemed to imply he didn’t feel interfered with, given his lack of protest.)
From the skater’s point of view, I would like calls to be made reasonably, not just for the purpose of establishing some mandate the league has prioritized.
I’m not sure the call last night was fair, but overall, I get it.
There’s going to be frustration in the interim, but the league’s motivations here are pure: Alter the players' behavior, keep the goalies safe, and don’t have any games unfairly decided.
And that’s all fair enough.