Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 05/13/14 at 10:08 AM ET
By Tom Murray,
The timing was curious, to say the very least.
Sometime around 8:30PM EST on Monday evening, the NHL announced that Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was being fined $5,000 for the “unsportsmanlike conduct” it deemed he exhibited when he squirted Sidney Crosby with his water bottle after the final buzzer of the Rangers victory in Sunday night’s Game 6 showdown at Madison Square Garden.
This news came in the wake of an earlier, unofficial, wave of stories which indicated there would be no fine for Lundqvist.
No problem with the fine for Hank. After all, the league had already established a no tolerance policy for water-based frivolity, fining Bruins tough guy Shawn Thornton over $2,800 for his not-so-surreptitious Sunday night squirt of Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban. Thornton was sitting on the bench when he squeezed; P.K. was part of the play taking place right in front of the Bruins bench.
(Lundqvist got a stiffer fine, the maximum allowed the NHL’s Players Association, because he makes a lot more money than Thornton’s $1.1 million salary.)
But here’s the maddening rub for anyone who follows (“tries to follow” is the more appropriate phrase) the logic (a generous term) the NHL applies when it comes to many of its disciplinary decisions:
Lundqvist’s sinister squirt occurred while he was heading for his team’s bench, skating by a scrum between Rangers and Penguins players that was the result of the following: Just seconds earlier, as time was running out on the game and the action centered around the area to the immediate left of Lundqvist’s net, Crosby became the newest member of the NHL’s All Skewer Team, spearing Rangers forward Dominick Moore in the groin and then skating away as Moore doubled over.
Moore then cross-checked Crosby in the back, at which point his Penguins teammate Chris Kunitz weighed in as only he can, sucker-punching Moore with a left, knocking him to the ice and then pouncing on him to deliver a barrage of more punches. At the time Crosby was doused, he was bent over the human pile, jamming his stick into the back of Rangers defenseman Marc Staal.
Earlier in the playoffs, Bruins star forward Milan Lucic was fined $5,000 for his spearing of Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser. Ditto for Ryan Garbutt of the Dallas Stars who received a lesser fine (like Thornton, because of his salary) for targeting the nether region of the Ducks Corey Perry with his stick.
As for Sid The Skewer?
Not a murmur from the league. Not earlier in the day. And certainly not later, at the time Lundqvist’s fine was announced.
It all raises a few obvious questions:
First and foremost, if Lundqvist’s behavior was “unsportsmanlike” for the way he handled his water bottle, how exactly are we to define Crosby’s apparently acceptable behavior regarding the handling of his stick?
Why did it take the league all day and into the evening to decide, after all, to fine Lundqvist?
And why and how could they possibly think they could levy a fine on him without also hitting Crosby with a fine that if nothing else established some modicum of consistency in regard to its previous rulings on this slew of post-season spearings?
(And, oh by the way, not even going to bother to take the time and space to wonder why Crosby’s sneaky slew foot on Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi earlier in the game was delivered with impunity as well.)
This is precisely the kind of duplicitous and inconsistent nonsense that breathes life into the conspiracy theorists who are convinced one of the NHL’s primary objectives, particularly this time of year, is to coddle Crosby.
And the clear message that comes with the Lundqvist fine is a laughable one: His actions were apparently more heinous than Crosby’s. Ergo, the league is more concerned with doling out punishments for squeezing than it is for spearing.
Once again, the optics here are ridiculous. But really, what else is new?
And speaking of bad optics…..
Isn’t it about time to employ an automatic video review for any call involving goalie interference?
Not that many of them come up in the course of a game and it’s becoming more and more clear it’s completely unfair to expect a referee to make the correct call at the instant the contact occurs. It all happens way too fast.
The most recent example occurred, again, early in the second period of that same Game 6 between the Rangers and Penguins. Chris Kreider of the Rangers raced into the Penguins zone, bearing down on goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Just before he got to the blue paint Penguins defenseman Kris Letang pushed him from behind. Kreider barreled into Fleury as the puck went in the net for a goal, only to be immediately waved off by the referee.
Did Kreider make contact with Fleury? Absolutely. But did he have any time at all to avoid it, once shoved by Letang? No way.
It’s very easy to watch the replay and conclude the ref blew the call. So why not simply take advantage of the technology, take that flawed decision out of the hands of the official, and get it right?
The gist of the rule, 69.1, to which we refer here, is pretty straightforward:
“If an attacking player has been pushed, shoved, or fouled by a defending player so as to cause him to come into contact with the goalkeeper, such contact will not be deemed contact initiated by the attacking player for purposes of this rule, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.”
The NFL reviews every scoring play. Why not do the same in the league that already is by far the most sophisticated of the four major sports when it comes to video review?
It’s another one of those obvious questions for the league that begs a logical answer.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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