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The mail bag is loaded with questions as to how the Los Angeles Kings' third goal in their 6-0 win over Montreal on Tuesday could possibly have been allow to stand after Kyle Clifford backed into Habs goalie Carey Price deep in his goal crease (video link here). As my colleague Ray Ferraro said on the TSN broadcast, "Oh, I can't believe there are going to allow this goal...In my opinion, this is as 'goaltender interference penalty' as you'll find!"
I couldn't agree more with Ray's accurate assessment of this play.
What troubles me most, beyond the tremendous inconsistency we see in calling goalkeeper interference, is that Referee Kevin Pollock had an unobstructed view from a stationery position in the corner closest to Kyle Clifford and Carey Price. The clear sightline gained in advance by the referee, as the Kings attacked the Montreal goal, should have made it easy to wave off Alec Martinez's first goal of the season and assess a penalty to Clifford for goalkeeper interference! The rebound off the initial save that Price made went to the opposite side of the net from where the referee was standing - as Clifford was backing deep into the goal crease and initiated contact with Price. From his position, the referee couldn't help but look through the blue paint to locate the puck and therefore should have reacted to the obvious goalkeeper interference that knocked Price off his set and thereby prevented him from defending his goal.
It matters little to me that this goal didn't impact the final outcome of the game. What this play highlights for us is that the current system of detecting and enforcing goalkeeper interference is not working. When the referee on the goal line, and directly responsible for this call, doesn't catch the interference a subsequent conference held between the four officials is intended to act as a 'safety check' to make the correct determination.
That obviously isn't happening on a regular basis.
Recent decisions in the past couple of weeks have impacted games and will continue to do so until a video review process is implemented to allow the refs to get this important call right! On Nov. 27, Evgeni Malkin pushed Toronto goalie Jonathan Bernier off a frozen puck and completely across the goal line with his stick before scoring the tying goal that forced overtime. While goalie interference was most obvious on this play, no call was made and the goal was allowed to stand. Pittsburgh picked up two points in the eventual shootout win.
Two nights later, a Leaf goal was immediately disallowed by referee Justin St. Pierre when Habs goalie Carey Price moved forward to establish position in his crease and initiated contact with James van Riemsdyk. JVR had set up just inside the top of the crease with his skates visible in the blue paint. On that play rule 69.3 was enforced by the letter of the law which states, "If a goalkeeper, in the act of establishing his position within his goal crease, initiates contact with an attacking player who is in the goal crease, and this results in an impairment of the goalkeeper's ability to defend his goal, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed."
The goalie interference rule doesn't get any clearer than that and demonstrates in both philosophy and spirit that a goalkeeper should be allowed to position himself within his blue paint to stop the puck without any physical obstruction unless initiated by a defending player. I'm good with that philosophy and the call that referee Justin St. Pierre made in the enforcement of this rule.
The problem we see far too often is that protection of the goalkeeper is not enforced consistently.
I hope the league's executives have addressed this pressing issue, among other problems that need their attention, during recent meetings.
The implementation of referee video review and/or a coach's challenge seems to be the most logical solutions to get this crucial call right.