Once again the NHL dropped the puck, choosing to allow an illegal goal to count last night in a shootout between the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum. After reviewing the rules and the video, it is clear that the League continues its poor decision-making streak by again ignoring the black and white nature of a situation, and instead, salivating over its all-wielding power.
First, the rule states, “The spin-o-rama type move where the player completes a 360° turn as he approaches the goal shall be permitted, as this involves continuous motion.” (Emphasis added).
In December, ironically against Tampa Bay, the Edmonton Oilers’ Linus Omark used the spin-o-rama in a shootout situation, yet used it much earlier in his motion while also maintaining continuous motion—just as the penalty shot/shootout rule states. There was never a question or review of the shot; Omark used it cleanly.
A review of the video of last night’s Martin St. Louis shootout goal certainly does not show continuous motion of either the puck or even the player. If the NHL defines a spin-o-rama as continuous motion, then St. Louis’ move wasn’t—by definition—a spin-o-rama. St. Louis clearly stops after doing the spin directly in front of Chicago goaltender, Corey Crawford, then hesitates/repositions and slaps the puck into the net over Crawford’s stick-hand shoulder. There simply is no question.
The only question that really needs to be asked here is why?
The first theory is that the NHL, constantly looking for that ESPN highlight reel that will attract more fans to the game, is doing this to serve the greater good of the game over the legal/illegal dichotomy. Anyone who follows hockey knows full well that the folks in Toronto make arbitrary and often short-sighted decisions based on anything but the black and white nature of an issue.
This is supported by the arbitrariness of the recent decision to not punish Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins over his hit on Montreal Canadiens’ Max Pacioretty. Chara hit Pacioretty at the corner of the glass where the glass-less team bench and protective glass begin again. Chara clearly knew where he was on the ice yet the NHL chose not to punish him. Meanwhile, others in the NHL, Chicago’s Niklas Hjalmarsson for example, was penalized for a hit on the Buffalo Sabres' Jason Pominville back in October.
Yet, the strongest argument is that of the overall players in the game. The only person to step forward and yell foul was Blackhawks' goaltender Corey Crawford. To appease him, game officials threw the call to the League in Toronto for review.
In his post-game interview, Blackhawk Coach Joel Quenneville told reporters that after the goal was called good, no one from the officiating team gave him an explanation as to why Toronto called it that way.
When asked specifically about the call, the soft-spoken Quenneville said, “I need an explanation on that last goal in the shootout. That’s something I need somebody to exactly tell me what the rule is.”
He was then asked for his interpretation of the rule; he had this to say, “You can’t lose your forward motion and momentum.” The interview then transitioned to the status of a few injured players. That was it regarding the questionable goal.
Would the NHL have made a call like this against Vancouver’s Alain Vigneault or Philadelphia’s Peter Laviolette? It is an interesting question to ponder. Quenneville’s reputation as someone who rarely makes waves could well have been part of the equation.