Get Outta My Crease: Should Goalie Interference Rules be Tweaked?

The ghost of Tomas Holmstrom continues to haunt the Detroit Red Wings.

During their game against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday, Pavel Datsyuk made a fantastic spin move in the slot and backhanded a shot past Carey Price. However, Price bumped into Justin Abdelkader, whose skate was in the crease, and the goal was disallowed.

Here is the play if you haven’t seen it yet.

Based on the way the rules are written out, the referees made the right call. The rule states:

“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.”

Abdelkader was in the crease when Price contacted Abdelkader. However, it was Price that initiated the contact, not Abdelkader. Knowing there cannot be any contact with the goalie if a player is inside the crease, Price took full advantage of the rules and leaned into Abdelkader in hopes of drawing the penalty. There is too much gray area with this rule because it doesn’t mention anything about a goalie initiating contact it simply states contact.

The goal would have given the Red Wings a 2-0 lead with about eight minutes remaining in the third period. However, Montreal tied the game at 1-1 with about three minutes left and then won the game in overtime.

It’s essentially like flopping in basketball. Price sensed Abdelkader had entered his crease, and at the slightest touch, he knew there was a good chance the goal would be disallowed.

This begs the question: Should goalie interference rules be tweaked?

Coach’s Challenge

The NHL wants more scoring, but taking away goals because goalies are initiating contact whenever a player gets close to them is counterproductive to what the league is trying to do. But you also can’t have guys parked in the crease and not give the goalie a fair chance to make the save. A goalie shouldn’t have free rein to bump into any player in order to draw a call.

Perhaps there should be a coach’s challenge for situations such as incidental contact. If Mike Babcock challenges that play, the replay clearly shows Price leans into Abdelkader to initiate the contact, and the shot actually goes in the opposite direction Price is moving, which means Abdelkader really didn’t interfere with Price’s ability to make the save at all.

Incidental contact can be a hard thing to decipher, especially at full speed without the benefit of replay. Why not take a second look and see if there is an obvious intent to draw a call without attempting to make the save? If no intent can be found, then the goal can be disallowed.

I’d like to see it implemented next year. It can be tested in the preseason, and I can guarantee more goalies will worry about making the save rather than trying to draw an incidental contact call.