Wings disallowed goal more evidence for expanded replay

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Mike Babcock: “It takes two seconds to get it right.”

Detroit – A disputed non-call on a play where Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was interfered with on a pivotal goal in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals wasn't enough to get the NHL to expand video review last spring. So it's doubtful that a blown goalie interference call on Luke Glendening in the ninth game of the season will ignite a call to action.

What it does for sure, though, is keep the debate on the front burner and the dialogue hot.

"I think the league just wants to get it right," coach Mike Babcock said after practice Thursday. "I'm not in charge of this stuff and I don't know how to do it. But I just know, get it right. Everybody is happy when you are right."

The Wings have been on the bad end of two goalie interference calls this year. Pavel Datsyuk had a goal disallowed on Oct. 21 when it was ruled that Justin Abdelkader interfered with Canadiens goalie Carey Price. A case could have been made that Price initiated the contact.

The blown call Wednesday in Washington was far more egregious. Goalie Braden Holtby clearly tripped and fell on his own accord before Drew Miller fired the puck in the net. But the referee farthest away from and trailing the play, Ghislain Hebert, ruled that Glendening tripped him.

The goal was nullified and Glendening sent to the penalty box.

"I imagine the way it happened is, you see the goalie laying there and the shot goes into the net and you go, 'I can't give him a goal, he tripped the guy,'" Babcock said. "You call a penalty. It just happens naturally because you think that's what must've happened, because you don't think a goalie is going to fall down.

"Well, in the end you got it wrong."

The answer to the problem, of course, is to expand video replay to include goalie interference calls that nullify goals, or give coaches the right to challenge. It has been discussed at league meetings for several years, with Wings general manager Ken Holland being a leading proponent, but it has always failed to get a consensus because of the fear of adding to the length of the games and because it could further decrease scoring.

"The way I look at it," Babcock said, "when you are done complaining and whining about (the call), by the time that's all done, they could've got it right. It takes two seconds to get it right. The referee never wants to get it wrong. He doesn't want to watch the replays for three weeks of him getting it wrong. He'd rather have it right."

Former referee Kerry Fraser, who now works for TSN in Canada, agreed the call was missed and said there was a way the referees could have adjusted the call on the ice within the current video replay rules.

The video review rules were expanded before the season – Rule 38.4 (viii) – to allow reviews to "assist the referees in determining the legitimacy of all potential goals," to ensure, as Fraser said, they are good hockey goals.

One of the reasons this clause was added to prevent situations like what happened late last season when the Wings were allowed a goal against the Kings after the puck had been deflected off the netting and back onto the ice.

Fraser said the referees could have used that clause Wednesday night.

"This would also include situations whereby the referee stops play or is in the process of stopping the play because he has lost sight of the puck and it is subsequently determined by video review that the puck crosses (or has crossed) the goal line and enters the net as the culmination of a continuous play where the result was unaffected by the whistle," Fraser wrote. "In other words, the timing of the whistle was irrelevant to the puck entering the net at the end of a continuous play.

"One or three of the other officials on the ice should have observed this play accurately and informed referee Hebert of the error of his decision to justly negate a penalty call and perhaps allow video review to get involved. If that had been the case, the timing of the whistle was irrelevant to the puck entering the net as a result of the continuous play executed by Drew Miller and the right and just decision could be rendered on this good hockey goal."

Of course, as Fraser also said, the blown call could have been avoided if the coaches had the ability to challenge calls such as these, like managers and coaches do in baseball and football. A challenge system was on the table during the league meetings last spring and did not get a consensus because of the potential of misuse by coaches and the possibility of undermining the referees.

"You really have to limit replay to things that are clear, crystal clear, black and white," Commissioner Gary Bettman told NHL Network last spring. "And when you start getting into the judgment calls that the officials make, that really isn't susceptible to video replay the way, you know, whether or not the puck crossed the line and you have a goal."

As for goalie interference calls specifically, the league was fearful of dragging the pace of the games down and further curtailing scoring – which is ironic since the two questionable calls against the Wings cost them goals.

"There were just too many situations that were brought up that would potentially slow the game down," NHL vice president Kris King said last spring. "If we rule on goalie-interference plays, we are going to take more goals down than we are going to put up in a game where we want more scoring chances.

"Once we played devil's advocate with a lot of their questions, they just didn't feel that now is the right time to implement a coach's challenge."

The topics of expanded video review and a coach's challenge system will most likely be discussed again next spring.