Coach’s Challenge Leading to More Questions Than Answers

The coach’s challenge was supposed to clear up gray area on goalie interference calls among other things this season. But almost a quarter of the was in, and it has led to more questions than answers on the ice.

Opinions Run Wild

Tuesday night in Pittsburgh brought about a very interesting situation between Penguin forward Patric Hornqvist and Wild goaltender Devin Dubnyk.

That play came at almost the midway point of the game. The Wild were on the penalty kill and it was only a 2-1 game at that point. A small pile up ensued, but after everyone had cleared the front of the net, Hornqvist still appeared to impede Dubnyk. He never fully recovered and wasn’t able to slide over and stop Evgeni Malkin’s one-time shot.

The official call on the ice after the challenge was a goal and the explanation from the NHL was as follows:

“At 8:15 of the second period in the Wild/Penguins game, Minnesota requested a Coach’s Challenge to review whether Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist interfered with Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk before the puck entered the Minnesota net.

After reviewing all available replays and consulting with NHL Hockey Operations staff, the Referee confirmed no goaltender interference infractions occurred before the puck crossed the goal line.”

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The NHL was firm in their explanation of why it was called a goal on the ice, and the complexity of this play was compounded by the fact that under rule 69, there is no real provision for this play. Everything in the rule book says “at the same time the goal is scored”. Granted, this didn’t happen at the same time, but it still appeared to have significant effect on Dubnyk’s ability to stop the puck.

The following is directly from the NHL rulebook, if the goalie is in his crease:

“c) An attacking player makes incidental contact with the goalkeeper at the same time a goal is scored. Goal is disallowed. The official in his judgment may call a minor penalty on the attacking player. The announcement should be, “No goal due to interference with the goalkeeper.” “

And if the goaltender is “[In a] Battle for a loose puck whether the goaltender is in or out of the crease”

“a) An attacking player makes incidental contact with the goalkeeper while both are attempting to play a loose puck at the time a goal is scored. Goal is allowed. “

Both of these situations could apply to the situation with Hornqvist and Dubnyk. Hornqvist undoubtedly pushed the goalie with his stick while he was in the crease and after the puck was gone. The referee did not call a penalty and no goal was scored at that time. But while Dubnyk was still trying to recover, a goal was scored as a direct result of the contact in the seconds before. That’s where the gray area comes into play.

The coach’s challenge is quickly becoming a toss-up of opinions on goaltender interference calls and that needs to be fixed. The call on that goal could have easily gone either way. These rules need to be reexamined and solidified so that there is no gray area.

Expansion?

Expansion of the coach’s challenge, that is.

The other part of the story in the goal above was what originally put the Penguins on the power play.

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Chris Porter was called for a hi-stick that never actually happened. Kris Letang was clipped by his own player and the referee thought it was Porter’s stick.

That was the turning point in the game since the goal had ultimately counted. But it ultimately begs the question, should penalties be open to the coach’s challenge?

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It’s likely going to be brought up at the GM’s meetings, and plays like these prove that it might have a place in the game.

There’s a fine line when you’re talking about penalties called on the ice. Hi-sticking might be the one exception where the call is usually black and white. Stick infractions are largely left to the discretion of the referee. They should not be challengeable, but a play like this should have the option to be challenged.

What if that happens in the third period of game 7 of a playoff series? Are things different then?

Unlike the goal call mentioned above, this is black and white. There is no doubt that Maata’s stick clipped Letang, not Porter.

The Wild ended up losing the game by just a goal, and that power play on a phantom call was a huge point in the game. Had Minnesota been able to challenge it, the outcome of the game could have been drastically different.