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Getting it right

NHL must clarify kicked-goal, head-blow standards

Posted: Monday June 4, 2007 12:43PM; Updated: Wednesday June 6, 2007 2:17PM
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This disputed goal by Daniel Alfredsson (foot in net) was the latest in a series of calls that has doused the 2007 playoffs in controversy.
This disputed goal by Daniel Alfredsson (foot in net) was the latest in a series of calls that has doused the 2007 playoffs in controversy.
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So, the Ottawa Senators have granted us a series by way of their 5-3 victory in Game 3. Good stuff. But two developments from that game got my attention as they pertain to the NHL, now two years into its new standard of officiating.

One was the video review process that overturned the ruling on the ice and awarded Daniel Alfredsson a goal. The other was the head-shot delivered by Chris Pronger on Dean McAmmond that went without impunity on the ice but, upon further review by the league office, got Pronger suspended for Game 4.

Both plays are a byproduct of the NHL wanting speed and skill to return to the game. Thus, the much-ballyhooed officiating standard of enforcement that was adopted after the lockout. The results have been favorable, especially in the open ice, but many people thought that without the ability to use the stick as leverage to hook, crosscheck, slash and resort to all the little tricks of the trade that have been passed down for generations, a real strain would be put on defensemen.

That premise is starting to unfold. Without the ability to punish people at the paint with impudence, or reroute a driving forward by putting the stick on him, defensemen face more and more situations in which speeding forwards make their way to the net without the puck. All of which is a great thing. The unforeseen reality is that a greater number of goals are going in off the skates of the driving forwards, just like the Alfredsson scenario that tied Saturday night's game 3-3.

Referee Dan O'Halloran emphatically waved off the goal; even showing the kicking motion by Alfredsson upon which the decision was based. The video review overturned the official's interpretation, however. Because of the increased incidence of this type of play, the league is going to have to tighten up its definition of what is allowable.

As the playoffs have unfolded, each ruling has added gradations of gray, so much so that no one -- especially the players at ice level -- knows what to expect once a goal is in review. "Distinct kicking motion" no longer seems complete as the definitive explanation for why a goal must be disallowed. "Cannot be propelled by a skate" and "guiding the puck in with a skate is a goal" have been added as rationale to differentiate one situation from another.

Too much already.

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