Another day, another Coach’s Challenge… and another goal lost to a lifted skate. Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan issued a Coach’s Challenge after the Lightning appeared to open the scoring early in Game 6.
Linesman Michel Cormier donned the headset and picked up the tablet to watch the play. After a few minutes of review and consultation with linesman Steve Miller, Cormier shared the decision with referee Dan O’Halloran.
O’Halloran broke the news to the crowd: “After video review, it’s been determined the play is offside. We have no goal.”
Drouin was determined to be offside not by the position of his body, but by the position of his skates. Specifically, the skate – or skates – in contact with the ice.
In this case, Drouin’s trailing foot was in the air. Based on that, the determination of Drouin’s position was made solely by the skate in contact with the ice. That skate was already in the zone. Drouin was offside.
From the NHL Rulebook:
The position of the player’s skates and not that of his stick shall be the determining factor in all instances in deciding an off-side. A player is off-side when both skates are completely over the leading edge of the blue line involved in the play.
A player is on-side when either of his skates are in contact with, or on his own side of the line, at the instant the puck completely crosses the leading edge of the blue line regardless of the position of his stick.
That “in contact with” part is key. The rule requires the player’s skate to be on the ice. One of Drouin’s skates was offside. The other was not in contact with or on his own side of the line.
Had Drouin’s left skate been on the ice, he’d have been in the clear. The play would have been onside, and the goal would’ve stood, giving the Lightning a 1-0 lead.
When the league introduced the coach’s challenge prior to the start of the season, the goal was to catch those “egregious” offside plays. With an objective rule like this one, though, there’s no room for interpretation. Either it’s offside or it’s not. There’s no judgment call to allow a certain amount of wiggle room. There’s no application of logic to say that the play was so close that the zone entry had no bearing on the outcome of the play.
The officials have to call it as it’s written. This means that any offside – even one by millimeters that requires a frame-by-frame replay – is up for review via Coach’s Challenge.
Referee Paul Stewart criticized the rule and its unintended consequences.
This is just another example of how the sport did not learn its lesson from the “toe in the crease” era where minor technical rule violations that had nothing to do with why a would-be goal was scored causing the goal to be disallowed. It’s another case of tinkered-with procedures resulting in a weaker game between the added delays and outcomes that, while technically correct, go against the spirit of the game.
In his TSN column, referee Kerry Fraser touched on another part of the play — goaltender Matt Murray throwing his goal stick across the crease in a last-dicth effort to prevent a goal.
Rule 53.2 states that, “When a defending player (Murray in this case) shoots or throws a stick or any other object at the puck or puck carrier in the defending zone but does not interfere in any manner with the puck or puck carrier, a minor penalty shall be assessed.”
While Murray’s stick did not interfere with the puck or Drouin, he was nonetheless subject to the prescribed minor penalty if Drouin did not score on the play.
Once Drouin’s potential goal was disallowed through review, the clock was reset to the time of the offside play. Rule 78.7 (Coach’s Challenge) is very explicit regarding penalties committed following a missed offside and the eventual scoring of a goal.
NOTE 4 of Rule 78.7 reads: “If one or more penalties (major or minor) are assessed between the time of the ‘Offside’ play and the video review that disallows the apparent goal, the offending team(s) (and responsible Player(s)) will still be required to serve the penalty(ies) identified and assessed, and the time of the penalty(ies) will be recorded as the time at which the play should have been stopped for the “Offside” infraction.”
Once Drouin was found to be offside and his apparent goal disallowed, Murray should have been assessed a minor penalty for throwing his goal stick from within his defending zone. The Tampa Bay Lightning were entitled to a power-play opportunity on this unusual turn of events.