In Friday nights Eastern Conference Semifinal Game 1, between the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning there was a controversial call that led to the game winner in double overtime for the Lightning. With 18:06 left in double overtime, Lightning center, Brian Boyle, carried the puck into the offensive zone, as he entered the zone replays showed that his teammate Valterri Filppula was slightly offsides, but there was no call made. Twelve seconds later, Nikita Kucherov scored the game winner and just like that Game 1 of this Eastern Conference Semifinal was over. Although the game was over, the talk over the controversial call was not. In his post game interview, Canadiens coach Michel Therrien was very frustrated over the none call made by the line judge, and blamed the officials for the loss.
This has gotten me thinking about the idea of expanded instant replay, and a coach’s challenge in the NHL. As of right now the only replays in the NHL are on goal calls and all replay requests come from Toronto, where replay officials are sitting reviewing every goal. Areas where I see replay could be expanded and a coach’s challenge could be implemented are on plays like delay of game, icing, and offsides. All of the replays would be done in Toronto just as before.
Delay of Game
Although almost all penalties are judgement calls, delay of game is one that is very black and white. The rule states that if a player clears the puck from his own defensive zone and it exits the ice over the tall glass, this does not include the benches, without deflecting off of anything else, it is a two minute penalty for delay of game. This call has been missed before in NHL games, although it is rarely missed. Often times it is hard to see if the puck has deflecting off of an opponent’s stick. This would be an easy call to review and could prevent a player from getting a penalty he does not deserve.
Before the 2013-2014 NHL season, the league changed its rule from a touch icing system to a hybrid icing system to prevent injuries near the boards while trying to touch up the puck. Under the new rule, which ever player wins a race to the face off dots closest to the puck determines icing. If a player on the team that cleared the puck wins the race to the dots, play continues and no icing is called. If a player on the opposing team wins the race to the dots, icing is called and a face off is taken down at the other end of the ice, with the team that iced the puck unable to make any line changes. Under the coach’s challenge I would like to see implemented if icing is called, and the coach on the team that iced the puck believed that his player won the race to the dot he could call for a challenge. This would be a quick challenge to see which player won the race. If the call is reversed, my idea would be for the team that won the challenge to get a face off in the offensive zone since that is where they would have had the puck had icing not been called.
In the NHL, the puck has to enter the offensive zone before any other player enters the zone. If a player is in the offensive zone before the puck it results in offsides. One way, that a challenge could be implemented on offsides is at the next whistle if the play ends up in a goal as it did in Game 1 between the Canadiens and Lightning, the defending team that just allowed the goal could challenge. If the referee sees in the replay that they were offsides, they would call off the goal and have a neutral zone face off just as if offsides was called in the first place.
I would like to see the NHL give this expanded replay and coach’s challenge a trail run in the future during preseason games to see how it works. In the past few years we have seen the MLB start with just home run reviews and then expand it to safe and out calls on coach’s challenges, soccer has also implemented goal line technology, the NBA has reviews in the last two minutes of games on out of bounds calls, and the NFL has had coach’s challenges for over 15 years now. So again I would like to see the NHL give the coach’s challenge a try, give each coach one challenge per game during the preseason next year and see how it works out. None of these challenges should take longer than a minute or two, so it wont hurt the rhythm of an NHL Game.
Many of us here in Kansas City don’t really understand the NHL, a league known for handing out ridiculous suspensions, allowing moronic fights to occur on the ice, and showing a bias toward the original six franchises (Detroit, Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, New York, Vancouver.) However, for those of us that do follow the national hockey league, there simply is nothing better than the NHL playoffs.
As a self-proclaimed enthusiast of the four feathered men (Chicago Blackhawks), these NHL playoffs have gotten off to a rough start. In the Western Conference, the Phoenix Coyotes hold a 3-2 series advantage over the Blackhawks, with the series returning to Chicago Monday night with the Hawks in a win or go home situation. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews scored an absolutely remarkable goal in overtime of game 5 to force the series back to Chicago. Each game in this series has gone to the extra period, with the Coyotes effectively playing an aggressive style of defense to combat the offensive power of Toews, Patrick Kane, and Patrick Sharp. In game 3, Coyotes defender Raffi Torres launched himself at the head of Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa, knocking Hossa out of the game and breaking his jaw. Torres was given a 25 game suspension for the act, and Hossa likely is done for the series. He could return if the Hawks advance.
Also out west, perennial super power Detroit has shockingly been eliminated by the Nashville Predators, a team that always seems to knock of the big boys when it matters most. The 2nd seeded St. Louis Blues have also won their series, 4-1 over the disappointing San Jose Sharks. St. Louis is a team that has really come into it’s own in the latter part of the season with the extremely efficient play of David Backes, while San Jose has gone the other way.
Tonight, the 8th seeded Los Angeles Kings will try to complete the unthinkable as they attempt to knock out the overwhelming favorite Vancuouver Canucks, a franchise still searching for it’s first Stanley Cup Championship. Canuck fans have known heartbreak all too well, as 3 of the last 4 seasons the Canucks had the top seed in the Western Conference but failed to hoist the Cup. Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo is known as one of the best goaltenders to ever play the game, but if he fails to bring a championship to the terminal city, his legacy will be one of failure.
The series has been surprisingly dominated by Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings, as they hold an advantage of 3-1 in the series. Hockey is a crazy game, however, as just last season the Chicago Blackhawks won 4 straight games to come back and shock the Canucks 4-3. This year, the Canucks will try to follow suit, except playing the part of the Hawks.
Shifting things East, the Broadstreet Bullies (Philadelphia Flyers) have righted the ship as they have defeated their in-state rivals Pittsburgh, winning the series 4-2 and advancing to the East semifinals. As I type this, Boston and Washington are tied at 1-1 at the end of the 1st period of game 6, with the 7th seeded Capitals leading the series 3-2. The defending champion Boston Bruins are really having trouble converting on the power play in this series, as they are only 1/13 on the power play, worst in this years NHL playoffs. Goalie Tim Thomas is also struggling, having allowed 7 goals in the last 6 periods of action.
For the Capitals, this postseason has been one of surprising success to this point. After being the East’s top seed the last 3 seasons and failing to reach the second round of the postseason, largely due to the disappointing play of star Alex Ovechkin, they have relished the role of being the underdog this postseason. The former number 1 overall pick has been known to shine during the regular season only to flop once the calendar flips to April. Winning a championship, or even a playoff series, would go along way in helping Ovechkin shake the criticism.
Elsewhere out East, top seeded New York is in trouble as they trail the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in the series with the series shifting back to Ottawa for game 6 Monday night. The Rangers have been arguably the most consistent team in the NHL all season, however they faltered down the stretch losing 4 of their final 5 games to close out the season, so an Ottawa upset would be a little surprising, but not shocking.
In the almost forgotten series of the playoffs, the 4th seeded Florida Panthers hold a 3-2 series advantage over the 5th New Jersey Devils in the East. Not much exciting is going on in this series, just solid, well-played hockey. Two of the best goalies in the game, Devils’ Martin Brodeur and Panthers’ Jose Theodore have gone toe to toe in the series, both boasting remarkable save percentages in the lower 90’s.
Those of you that aren’t hockey fans, I encourage you to sit back and enjoy the remainder of the playoffs. And if you find yourself failing to find a team to root for, those Blackhawks can use all the help they can get at this point.