This past Saturday the Vancouver Canucks lost 4-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs and for that alone they should be relegated, but with the Sedins in the lineup I admit that a one goal game is rarely over until the final whistle. At 3-2 with under four minutes left it was still anxious times for the Leafs who shall we say have a history of blowing third period leads. Give them credit, they pushed for the nail in the coffin and were rewarded with an insurance goal by Joffrey Lupul. The trouble is Nick Spaling was lying in the crease beside Canucks helpless goaltender Ryan Miller as the puck was fired into the net. The call on the ice was good goal. The coach’s challenge was issued by Vancouver to review for goaltender interference and the goal ended up being upheld. 4-2 Toronto. Game over( this time anyway).
I have a problem with this goal being allowed not just in the context of the goal, but also in the context of the standard the NHL uses to determine what is a goal and what isn’t. The standard is so inconsistent that you could probably have as much predicting which goals will count and which ones won’t by pulling them out of a hat.
Looking at this particular case to me there’s no good reason this goal should have counted, but let’s look at the possibilities. First of all, was there contact inside or outside the blue paint. This is a major factor to me, but the NHL doesn’t seem to care about it. As discussed in https://toughcallblog.wordpress.com/2015/11/09/ovechkin-denied-history-todays-rules-and-why-theyre-ruining-hockey/, the bar set by the NHL has been that as long as some part of the goalie is touching the blue paint it doesn’t seem to matter where the contact takes place. A player may have his skates outside the paint and make contact with a goalie outside the paint but if the goalie is deemed to have established any part of his body inside the crease at all, historically the goal has been disallowed. Applying this to the Lupul goal, the right skate of Spaling makes direct contact with the right arm of Miller. Clear, solid contact. Does this happen outside the blue paint? I think it starts outside the blue paint, but regardless his skate definitely ends up in the crease along with Miller’s arm. The majority of Miller’s body is established in the crease and contact with the arm occurs both outside and inside the crease area. As if this isn’t bad enough, Spaling’s left skate then pushes Miller’s right pad away from the puck as well. Two points of contact, both in the blue paint and both with enough force to propel the goaltender away from the direction of the save. By any standards, the goal should have been disallowed right there.
Another factor usually considered is whether the player was pushed into the crease. Spaling is definitely in a battle with Vancouver defenseman Yannick Webber, but he was already heading to the same spot anyway and comes to a stop before contact with Webber is made. If Miller had tried to dive across he would have bumped into Spaling and we wouldn’t be having this conversation. By previous NHL standards he had a foot in the crease prior to any contact being made and therefore the onus should be on him to do whatever it takes to get himself out of the crease before affecting the goalie.
What worries me most though is the final argument by the announcers. Miller was down and out and wouldn’t have been able to make the save anyway. That’s opening up quite a can of worms isn’t it? If we’re going to start judging whether interference matters based on the goalie’s compete level then where do you draw the line? First of all the only reason the puck went over to Lupul in the first place is because Miller reached out with his stick and swatted it there. This happened at the exact moment Spaling’s skate came into contact with Miller’s arm. Had there not been a skate on his arm he may have been able to pull the puck back to himself and freeze it. Maybe not, but if it’s ok to make a judgement call on whether he could have made the save then I can make a judgement call on whether he could have controlled the puck and use it as just as valid an argument, which is ridiculous. Some of these guys could be considered down and out. Should we then give these goals back to the players because it’s unfair for them to expect the goalie to make these kinds of saves? More to the point, if someone had been standing in the way making contact with these guys do you think anyone would have argued that they were prevented from doing this?
As a final point, just look at the video of the Lupul goal and then watch the replays they show of all the goals so far this season that have been called goals on the ice and then been overturned. Maybe they just allowed this one because it was a milestone 200th goal for Lupul. Ask Ovechkin if milestones matter? The rules are ruining hockey but in this case the league doesn’t even allow its own rules to apply.
Verdict: Maybe not everyone in the league hates the Leafs after all.