Trying To Make Sense Of The NHL’s Goaltender Interference Standards

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The NHL has its fair share of problems, but one of its biggest is consistency with goaltender interference rulings. This was on full display last night in the New Jersey Devils 4-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins when Jake Guentzel’s tied the game at 4:04 of the third period. As the video below shows, Sidney Crosby (how fitting) skated the puck in, and fired a shot prior to losing his edge and bulldozing goaltender Keith Kinkaid. Guentzel buries the rebound, while Kinkaid is recoiling from his physical contact with Crosby. Despite a coach’s challenge by New Jersey, the on-ice call stood.

You can argue that I shouldn’t be complaining, and just be happy with the win, since this alleged goaltender interference no-call (along with Jesper Bratt’s waived-off breakaway goal) didn’t wind up costing the Devils. What happened in tonight’s game however, sheds light on the NHL’s glaring inconsistency when it comes to making goaltender interference calls.

According to NHL Rule 69.1 on goaltender interference: Goals should be disallowed only if: (1) 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; or (2) an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, inside or outside of his goal crease. Incidental contact with a goalkeeper will be permitted, and resulting goals allowed, when such contact is initiated outside of the goal crease, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.

When the NHL Situation Room explained their decision on allowing the Guentzel goal, they cited the actions of Blake Coleman—referring to the shove he gave to Crosby—causing Crosby to make contact with Kinkaid before the puck crossed the line.

I’m calling shenanigans on this ruling—watch Crosby’s feet in the video above. Not only was Crosby physically unaffected by Coleman, but Crosby loses his edge after his skates make physical contact with Kinkaid’s pad. Delving too much into last night’s call will veer us off topic, but what happened last night is one of numerous instances where games have been plagued by inconsistent goaltender interference calls.

While there are countless examples of these faulty rulings in 2018 alone, I found 10 particular instances of goaltender interference—five where a goal was disallowed, and five where contact with a goalie occurred, but the goal counted anyway.

The five examples where goals were disallowed on the count of moot goalie interference rulings are as follows:

January 25, 2018 Penguins vs Wild

January 25, 2018 Oilers vs Flames

March 10, 2018 Penguins vs Maple Leafs

April 3, 2018 Panthers vs Predators

April 23, 2018 Bruins vs Maple Leafs

While the specifics may differ in each individual case, the underlying theme behind why the above goals were disallowed was because physical contact was made with the goaltender prior to the goal being scored; which allegedly factored in the goaltender’s ability to make a save. If you watch each video above, the degree and nature of physical contact varies—from a subtle poke or shove, to a goalie tripping on an opposing stick or skate.

Keep these factors in mind when reviewing the below videos, depicting the five scenarios where goalie interference seemingly occurred, but the on-ice calls stood:

November 8, 2018 Golden Knights vs Senators

February 1, 2018 Blues vs Bruins

February 24, 2018 Maple Leafs vs Bruins

March 5, 2018 Maple Leafs vs Sabres

June 7, 2018 Golden Knights vs Capitals

Every one of the five instances above involved a player making physical contact with a goaltender. From players being physically tangled up with net minders to goaltenders literally being shoved out of their crease after being sandwiched by two players, it seems the referees and NHL’s Situation Room found discrepancies that made these goals acceptable. There aren’t any commonalities among all five, except that these rulings could have arguably been applied in the first five instances I listed that would have made those disallowed goals count.

The point I’m trying to make is the NHL and its referees lack any consistency, and have no standards to base around these situations. While some teams are featured more than once, this shows how these goaltender interference rulings affect all teams—both favorably and unfavorably—further reiterating the glaring inconsistency NHL referees and the Situation Room exhibit.

The scenarios listed above strongly indicate that goaltender interference rulings are ultimately a crapshoot, with last night being the latest example of this infuriating trend. If the NHL wants to rectify their stance on making these rulings, they have many factors to consider like determining the type and degree of acceptable physical contact made with a goaltender, and how “helpless” a goaltender is from regrouping after enduring physical interference, instead of the player. Until then, expect to see more inconsistent controversial rulings on how goaltender interference factors in goals being allowed or disallowed.

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