Brendan Gallagher Correctly Questions Goaltender Interference

The Montreal Canadiens faced the Arizona Coyotes to compete for sole control of the NHL’s basement, a competition the Canadiens lost. What seems to be a regular occurrence this season for the Canadiens, other than losing games, is having a goal reviewed. Also, what seems to be a regular occurrence this season, in calls made by the NHL’s Situation Room, it went against the Habs. Head coach Dominique Ducharme even addressed it in his post-game press conference.  

His comments clearly demonstrate frustration. When a team is living through its worst season in almost 90 years, those frustrations will boil over and lead to people making comments that normally wouldn’t happen.

Brendan Gallagher Makes Controvercial Comment

Frustration is also why Brendan Gallagher took to social media and commented on the way these decisions on contested goals are made by the league, risking fines in the process.

The Habs are going through a stretch of bad luck. However, there’s an old cliché in hockey that you make your own luck, meaning that when you’re playing well, following your systems and making the right reactions on a play, you’re going to earn better outcomes and likely get the benefit of the doubt on calls.

Related: Canadiens Face Difficult Choice with Gallagher

Last season, many – but not all – calls were decided in their favor many times. This season, they have absolutely been slanted against them. All that being said, Gallagher’s comments raise a valid concern as he personally has been disproportionately affected negatively by these calls. Let’s look at the comparisons he’s made in his tweet and see if they really are similar plays that led to vastly different interpretations.

Carolina vs. Arizona Contested Goals

In Arizona, forward Nick Schmaltz does what every coach loves, he went to the front of the net. He won body position on defenders Alexander Romanov and Jeff Petry.

At this point, Schmaltz and Romanov run into each other and Schmaltz then enters the crease and comes into contact with Cayden Primeau. The NHL deemed the defender made the contact happen and that the forward’s natural momentum caused the interference, but because it was the fault of the defender, they decided it was a good goal.

In Montreal, when playing the Carolina Hurricanes earlier in the season, Gallagher had a goal disallowed for “incidental contact”.

Gallagher’s feet are not in the crease, however, his rear end extends deep into Frederik Andersen’s crease, and, as the goaltender moves up to cut the angle and challenge the shot, does make contact. The contact isn’t initiated by the forward who went to the net but the goal was called back and a minor penalty for interference was assessed.

Does Gallagher have a case? Well, sort of. Schmaltz was deemed to be pushed in by a defender while the contact Gallagher made was initiated by the goalie, but he was in his own crease. While there have been goals similar to the one Gallagher scored that have stood because the league decided that the forward was already set in position and the goaltender could have made the save without moving to that exact location. But the fact remains, Gallagher wasn’t pushed in at all. So in this comparison, there doesn’t seem to be any bias against the Canadiens or Gallagher.

Tampa Bay vs. Chicago Contested Goals

On Dec 28, 2021, against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Gallagher scored a goal only to have the effort disallowed twice, once by referee Dan O’Rourke and then by the Situation Room in Toronto after Ducharme unsuccessfully challenged the ruling of goaltender interference.

On this play, Gallagher had won body position with speed to the front of the net, it was at this point that Boris Katchouk initiated contact on Gallagher which pushed him into the goaltender. In this case, unlike the one in Arizona, the goal was disallowed and a penalty for delay of game was assessed.

Brendan Gallagher
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

That decision made all the difference in that game, the goal would have made it a 3 to 2 score for Montreal, instead, the Canadiens 29th ranked penalty kill failed to stop Tampa’s high powered offence and the game turned into a 4-2 score for Tampa in a matter of a minute. Prompting Ducharme to state after the game:

“For sure it’s frustrating, he makes a play, creates a turnover, gets a chance at the net, gets pushed from behind. I think the contact with the goalie, with his stick and his body, was because he was pushed from behind and if it’s not No. 11 on his back, it’s a goal.”

-Montreal Canadiens Head Coach Dominique Ducharme

There is a sentiment that if it was someone other than Gallagher, maybe the decision on that goal would’ve been different, something that Martin Biron agreed with on-air with TSN.

“Martin Biron felt that the contact between Gallagher and Tampa Bay goaltender Maxime Lagace was the result of a push by Boris Katchouk and suggested the goal was disallowed because it was Gallagher.”

-Pat Hickey (Pat Hickey, In the Habs’ Room: Disallowed Gallagher goal frustrates coach Ducharme, The Montreal Gazette, 29 Dec 2021)

But how does this compare to the goal the Chicago Blackhawks scored in overtime on Jan 14, 2022?

On this play, Phillip Kurashev attacked the net, as he did so, Mike Hoffman tried to body check him off the puck and away from his line of attack. This knocked Kurashev off balance, but his momentum ended up pushing Hoffman into his goaltender. The Situation room deemed that the contact was the fault of the defender and the goal counted leading to a Chicago win in overtime.

It doesn’t seem all that different than the play in Tampa Bay. A defender was responsible for the goaltender contact, however, in one play it is disallowed, in the other, allowed. Gallagher has a basis for questioning the decisions on these plays when they’re compared

Is there a vast league-wide conspiracy against the Canadiens? No, of course not, even if fans and players feel that way. Is Gallagher right to risk a fine and demand answers? Yes, he is. Fans across the NHL have many examples like this for their own teams where a play is deemed no goal for them, then, later in the season, a nearly identical play is deemed a good goal against them. This points more to issues with consistency in applying the rules that are on the books. The NHL has a vast history of inconsistency, especially with goaltender interference calls and until they can find a way to apply that rule in a consistent manner, fans and players alike will continue to openly question their decisions and have cause for doing so.

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