Friday, December 31, 2010

Yeah... but was it legal?

It was one of those nights for the Habs.

Not only did they spend a good part of the night beating themselves, but they were also the victim of a Steven Stamkos penalty shot. And not just any old penalty shot, but one of those schmancy-fancy kinds of penalty shots that the Lightning got all persnippity about when the same thing done to them by one of the Oiler's young hotshots not all that long ago.

To be fair, Centre Hice doesn't have a problem with spin-o-ramas on penalty shots. Or back flips, for that matter. As long as the move doesn't break any of the cardinal sins as laid out in the NHL rule book, it should be fair game. And good goal or not, the Habs didn't play well enough to win. But the Stamkos goal would seem to flaunt the letter of the law on a number of fronts.

In case you haven't seen it, let's go to the video...

And for clarification, here's the paragraph from the NHL rule book dealing with penalty shots. The pertinent bits:

"24.2 Procedure - The Referee shall ask to have announced over the public address system the name of the player designated by him or selected by the team entitled to take the shot (as appropriate). He shall then place the puck on the center face-off spot and the player taking the shot will, on the instruction of the Referee (by blowing his whistle), play the puck from there and shall attempt to score on the goalkeeper. The puck must be kept in motion towards the opponent’s goal line and once it is shot, the play shall be considered complete. No goal can be scored on a rebound of any kind (an exception being the puck off the goal post or crossbar, then the goalkeeper and then directly into the goal), and any time the puck crosses the goal line or comes to a complete stop, the shot shall be considered complete.

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." 

According to the rules, the Stamkos goal could be questioned on a number of points.

  1. Continuous motion of the player toward the goal--by the NHL's definition, a spin-o-rama move involves the a continuous motion of the player toward the goal, and thus is allowed. However, Stamkos' skates enter the crease, stop, then move back out of the crease, further away from the goal, and thus shouldn't be considered a continuous motion of approaching the goal. 
  2. Motion of the puck--the rules state that if the puck comes to a stop, the shot shall be considered complete. Stamkos stops the puck before propelling it into the net 
  3. Interfering with the goaltender's ability to make a save--Stamkos skated into Price, making contact with his pad while in the crease, thus not allowing him freedom of movement to attempt a save.

Point number three is what bothers me most with the goal. The whole reason that a penalty shot is awarded in the first place is because the shooter is deemed to have not been given a fair shot at scoring on the original attempt; the penalty shot is meant to address this. But it then seems ironic that on the penalty shot a goal can be scored while preventing the goaltender from having a fair shot at making a save. 

Interestingly, concerning penalty shots, the rulebook only covers possible fouls by the goaltender (leaving his crease early, throwing his stick, etc); it doesn't specifically address actions by the shooter which in the normal flow of the game could be considered a penalty. 

In the grand scheme of things, the Stamkos goal had no affect on the outcome of the game; the Canadiens had already self-destructed to the point where, goal or no goal, they weren't going to win. But to cover future instances where a similar play could affect the outcome of a game, shouldn't an addendum to the penalty shot rule, or at the very least a more detailed clarification of the rule be considered?

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