NHL goalie interference and how to whine about it

Milan Lucic was angry.

The Edmonton Oilers had just experienced an epic collapse against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 5 of their second-round series, giving up three goals with the Ducks’ net empty in the last four minutes of regulation, before losing in double-overtime by a 4-3 score.

The third goal of that rally was one of the most controversial of the playoffs, as Ryan Kesler of the Ducks was shoved into Oilers goalie Cam Talbot’s crease by defenseman Darnell Nurse, and then appeared to hold down Talbot’s leg with his glove before Rickard Rakell beat Talbot with 15 seconds left in the third period.

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“I mean, guy falls on the goalie and wraps his hand around the goalie’s pad. I don’t even know what goalie interference is anymore to be perfectly honest,” said Lucic, as visions of a former Boston Bruin driving through Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres like a Mac truck danced through our collective memories.

It was hotly debated:

And hotly contested, by Milan Lucic.

“It’s an absolute joke, especially two really good referees can’t make the right call at the right time, especially when the guy has two, three seconds to get up off the ice and he has his hand wrapped around the goalie’s leg and the goalie can’t get up to make a save and it’s still a goal. It’s unbelievable,” he said.

“I have no idea anymore what goalie interference is. If someone knows, call me and tell me, because it’s a shame that we are where we are right now with a call like that.”

So you have no doubt, then, that this was goalie interference?

“NO DOUBT IN MY MIND,” he barked.

David Staples was angry.

The Cult of Hockey columnist for the Edmonton Journal no doubt echoed the sentiment of Oilers fans when he saw the Ducks’ third goal was allowed to stand.





Game 6 is really critical in a 2-2-1 series.

Todd McLellan wasn’t angry.

The Oilers coach was frustrated, and essentially said what Lucic said but in a minor key.

“Interference? You’re asking the wrong guy. I don’t know what interference is anymore,” he said. “Obviously, Kesler was pushed in. There’s no doubt about that. But we have a strong belief that he wrapped his arm around Talb’s leg.”

Here’s the thing for Lucic, McLellan and Oilers fans that think they were robbed by the NHL officials for a second-straight game:

We totally know what goalie interference is.

It’s right there, in Rule 69 (nice):

If an attacking player has been pushed, shoved, or fouled by a defending player so as to cause him to come into contact with the goalkeeper, such contact will not be deemed contact initiated by the attacking player for purposes of this rule, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.

As McLellan said, Kesler was shoved into Talbot. According to the current rules, that’s it. Full stop.

The rule doesn’t address when a player needs to leave the crease after having been pushed into it, or what the call is if that player holds down the goalie’s pad after he’s shoved on top of him. The current rulebook doesn’t address it. For all we know, Kesler could have taken out a shank and rapid-fire stabbed Talbot in the crease, and it wouldn’t be goalie interference. Although we imagine that’s a misconduct. Probably, like, for slashing.

(And frankly, that’s more of a Corey Perry move than Kesler.)

So we do know what goalie interference is in the NHL: a collection of standards that are subjectively open for League interpretation on a case-by-case basis, but that clearly don’t address what happened in Game 5. And if you want them to address what happened with Kesler, then the rulebook needs to be amended, which is what they do in the NHL: They have rules, something happens that’s not addressed in the rules, and then the GMs change the rules to reflect that.

(Except for that one time when Sean Avery waved his stick in front of Marty Brodeur and they, like, made up a rule on the spot in the playoffs.)

Peter Chiarelli wasn’t angry, either.

“I see two points of interference. One was caused by our player pushing him. The other was caused by their player, in my mind. So it was a difference in opinions,” he said on Saturday, via the Oilers.

Chiarelli was remorseful. Because the rules that he and his peers have established, including the coach’s challenge and video review, failed to help his team in two straight games.

“We, as GMs, have voted this stuff in,” he said. “We have a general framework. We’ve got incidental contact in the white. We’ve got incidental contact in the blue. We’ve got guys being pushed in. So we’ve set up criteria, the GMs have.”

In other words, an issue with goalie interference isn’t on Kesler or the referees or even NHL hockey operations. It’s on the rules themselves, and the general managers that have shaped them, including Chiarelli.

And now it’ll be on him to ensure this doesn’t happen again, should he chose to ask for further clarification on goalie interference. Which he should, because Ryan Kesler literally pinned down a goalie’s leg last night and that’s not a good look for hockey and pretty much sucked for Talbot.

Cam Talbot should have been angry, but he wasn’t.

He was angry when Corey Perry’s goalie interference wasn’t called on a critical Game 4 goal. He sounded dispirited when addressing the Kelser incident after a 60-save loss in Game 5, not only about the play but about the result.

“He has a chance to get up. It kinda looks like he digs in over my pad, makes it look like he’s holding on,” said Talbot, before dropping some much-needed reality into the raging debate.

“At the same time, we had a 3-0 lead with 3-and-a-half minutes to go.”

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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