If there’s anything we can take away from the current edition of the NHL playoffs, it’s that the league is starving for goals, guarantees don’t mean a thing unless Mark Messier does it, and the video review system is broken and has been for an excruciatingly long time.
The last one should warrant the most attention though.
First was in Ottawa. The Senators had fought their way back in the series against the Montreal Canadiens after being down 3-0 and were looking to force a Game 7. But the hockey gods, who seemed to be on Ottawa’s side for the past few months, had different plans.
Montreal’s first goal was later seen to have had two high-sticks in the play, prior to the puck going in the net. The first high-stick was off Tom Gilbert’s stick (the puck then went directly to Max Pacioretty) 16 seconds before the goal and the second was off Brendan Gallagher’s stick 1 second before he scored. But since any missed call that doesn’t directly affect the goal scored is not allowed to be reviewed, the goal stood.
The second blown call was advantage Montreal as well. Off a Carey Price rebound, Jean-Gabriel Pageau tapped the ensuing loose puck into the net. The only problem was that the referee had blown the whistle less than a second before Pageau scored.
Neither goal was reviewable, therefore Montreal wrapped up the series in six and Ottawa’s Cinderella run was cut short.
The next instance had Montreal at the helm of controversy once again. In Game 1 of their second round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, there were two plays that could’ve benefited from a bit of instant replay.
The first was a play that saw the referee having to make a judgement call. On a breakaway, Nikita Kucherov looked to put his own rebound in on Carey Price while pushing the goaltender into the net as well. On second look, it seemed that the call was questionable, but without the ability to review the play for goalie interference, the referee’s judgement call stood.
Second, was the goal that ended overtime. The Lightning, once again, put the puck behind Carey Price, but after the dust had settled, it was pointed out that the Lightning looked to go offside 11 seconds before the goal was scored. Again, non-reviewable.
Our final circumstance is a black-and-white play that could have ended up deciding a series. With the New York Rangers on the verge of elimination in Washington, they held a 4-3 lead in the dying minutes of the third period when James Sheppard flipped the puck over the glass in his own end and earned a minor penalty for delay of game.
Or so it seemed.
The replay showed that Sheppard’s out-of-bounds backhand had actually skimmed off the glass, which means it should have just been a faceoff in the Rangers’ zone. Thankfully, New York killed the penalty and nothing was defined by the incorrect call.
In a matter of less than a month, three games were nearly decided over blown calls that could have been looked at again and overturned if necessary. But the NHL insists that we leave almost all decisions up to four men on the ice with whistles when we have people in front of 50 different camera angles.
It’s time the NHL embrace video review and leave a lot less to question.
Anything Directly Affecting a Goal
Why leave the most important decision in a game up to one person’s vantage point? On anything directly affecting a goal, once the call on the ice has been made, there should be video review available to make sure it was a legal play.
The St. Louis Blues would definitely agree.
On the overhead, it’s pretty clear Justin Abdelkader knocked in the OT winner with a broken stick. If that type of situation was reviewable, it would’ve taken a couple minutes to resolve with video replay and the goal would be overturned. They would have resumed play with a penalty to Abdelkader for playing with a broken stick.
But for some reason, the referees are forced to make near impossible judgement calls and the game is decided on a bad goal.
And why leave goaltender interference up to the officials as well?
Sometimes they’re just in a poor position to make the correct call.
Kicked in goals are reviewed and goals batted into the net with a high-stick are too. So why pick and choose which goal-affecting plays are reviewed.
Review them all.
Anything Right Before a Goal
It’s been said for a long time that the NHL will only change their reviewing rule book once it’s too late. Well, it’s already too late, but that didn’t stop another league from learning by their mistakes.
After an offside goal decided a playoff game in the QMJHL, commissioner Gilles Courteau took action.
“It is unfortunate that the result of a game was determined by an offside goal without the possibility of a video review. It is for that reason that as a League, we are taking the initiative to bring this addition to the Canadian Hockey League. We will therefore formulate a directive, beginning next season, allowing video review for all offside goals.” – Gilles Courteau. QMJHL Commissionner. Apr. 17, 2013.
And just like that, offside goals were able to be reviewed the following season. To this day, the QMJHL is the only North American hockey league that allows such a situation to be further reviewed after the play.
But what about other illegalities that affect the play prior to a goal?
It should be said that the league needs to look into these as well: puck into mesh, high-sticks, hand passes.
Here’s a solution. Disregarding judgement penalty calls, anything that happens after the puck reaches the offensive zone before a goal is scored can be subject to review.
For example, if a player used a high-stick to knock down a puck and pass it across to a teammate who then scored, the high-stick previous to the goal can be reviewed and the goal can be overturned.
No more blown goals. Simple.
Having all penalties subject for review is absurd and the very possibility of it just screams longer games.
But what if only the non-judgement calls were to be reviewed?
Leave all the obstruction calls and unsportsmanlike penalties up to the officials, but lend a helping hand when it comes to the black-and-white penalties. No one would argue if the referee went upstairs to quickly check a puck-over-glass violation or a too many men penalty.
The ability to control the game still needs to be in the hands of the officials. Playoff hockey sees more obstruction going purposely unseen, however, the regular season, not so much. But if the referees have the ability to check the day-and-night penalties, there wouldn’t be any complaints.
The coach’s challenge is a flawed approach. If the officials are given the proper means to review the important calls and evident situations, they don’t need a coach asking for a review of a soft hooking penalty.
The MLB already has a problem with managers taking ever so long to decide whether to challenge a play, and many games feature multiple prolonged reviews.
Commissioner Courteau had it right when he reacted to the blown offside call that determined the game.
“We are always trying to ensure that our officials have the necessary tools so that they can make just and equitable decisions for all our teams.” – Gilles Courteau.
Maybe it’s a bit early to start reviewing penalties, even the black-and-white ones. But one thing’s unanimous…
The NHL needs to get all the goals right.
Callum is currently a journalism student living in Ottawa where he covers his team, the Ottawa Senators. Originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Callum is also a big Mooseheads fan and a lover of the East Coast.