NHL Playoffs 2012: Goaltender Interference, the Penalty That Makes Me Scream

Ezra Skobeloff@zscoby43Correspondent IMay 14, 2012

GLENDALE, AZ - MAY 13:  Jarret Stoll #28 of the Los Angeles Kings and Oliver Ekman-Larsson #23 of the Phoenix Coyotes crash into goaltender Mike Smith #41 of the Phoenix Coyotes in the third period in Game One of the Western Conference Finals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Jobing.com Arena on May 13, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. The Kings defeated the Coyotes 4-2.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

As I was watching Sunday night's opening game of the Western Conference Finals between the Phoenix Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings, one single play inspired me to write. Actually, this has been building up inside of me over the last few years, but this was the final straw.

It's not as if this was the most egregious call I've witnessed, but when I saw Anze Kopitar get the gate at 9:50 in the second period for goalkeeper interference (it's official name), all I could do was shake my head.

Granted, I follow the Philadelphia Flyers more than any other team, so I often get to watch Scott Hartnell pushed into the opposing goalie and get a two-minute break as a result. Flyers fans, you know my frustration.

But this rule either needs a change or needs to be enforced  more appropriately.

In my previous article, I conceded my bias as a forward and not a netminder. But I have to think even the goalies of the world (as crazy as they are compared to the rest of us) have to hate some of the goaltender interference calls these days.

The NHL's Official Rules states:

"In all cases in which an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, whether or not the goalkeeper is inside or outside the goal crease, and whether or not a goal is scored, the attacking player will receive a penalty...

...Where the infraction being imposed is to the attacking player for hindering the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely in his goal crease, the penalty to be assessed is for goalkeeper interference.

Scott Hartnell gets escorted to the sin bin.
Scott Hartnell gets escorted to the sin bin.Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

In exercising his judgment, the Referee should give more significant consideration to the degree and nature of the contact with the goalkeeper than to the exact location of the goalkeeper at the time of the contact."

It sounds to me like the issue isn't the wording of what constitutes such a penalty, but rather the interpretation of most officials.

The rulebook also states that:

"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."

I know there isn't a bright line for what is or isn't "reasonable," but I find many of these assessed penalties to be unquestionably unreasonable.

The penalty on this play is probably the worst I've ever seen. If anyone is "[initiating] intentional or deliberate contact," it's Mike Smith. I'm pretty sure I screamed when I saw the arm go up, and I was just a casual fan watching this first-round playoff game between the Phoenix Coyotes and the Chicago Blackhawks.   

In the New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators series, Nick Foligno gets it here from two Blueshirts and gets two minutes.

Though this is not from the playoffs, this call is so bad that I had to include it. How in the world is Derek Dorsett called for goalie interference? Even the Bruins' announcers have beef with the call. Believe me, that's saying something.

Look, I know that referees have a tough job. They'll never get a pat on the back for a good call. It's as if fans think that they are a part of the game only so we can lambaste them when our team gets bamboozled.

I'm pretty sure the only time I ever hear anyone say anything nice about a referee is when it's known that he is retiring at the end of the season and the broadcasters applaud them for their years of service.

However, in my extremely humble opinion, this infraction is called far too inconsistently and incorrectly for me to accept it for what it is.

I can only beg that we get change. Do the game a favor and beg with me.