The Malik Report
Blues’ anger at Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard has to do with who he punched, not a ‘running’ problem
by George Malik on 12/08/11 at 05:58 AM ET
During the Red Wings’ 3-2 loss to St. Louis on Tuesday, both Blues goalie Brian Elliott and Wings goalie Jimmy Howard were engaged in collisions which resulted in goaltender interference penalties:
Because of the fact that we’re talking about goalies getting hit here—and it seems as if players have started to exploit the fact that the one thing Brendan Shanahan won’t automatically suspend a player for is running into a goaltender—the issue left the Blues’ press in something of a tizzy, but the fact that Howard also went unpunished when he chose to take matters into his own hands, and very specifically chose to punch David Perron, who’s just returned from a year’s worth of post-concussion symptoms, left both Perron and the Blues particularly sore about the incident, as they told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy RUtherford:
“It’s a quick play, bang-bang, and I tipped it on goal,” Perron said. “(Howard) slides across. I think at least half of his body was outside the crease. I’m trying to avoid him but (Stuart) pushed me into him. I understand the goalies want to have that security in the net, not to get hit, but when you get pushed in, it’s tough to avoid contact.”
Perron was playing only his second game back after 10 1/2 months off with a concussion, and like fans who winced when Howard was throwing punches, so was No. 57.
“I was just trying to protect myself because obviously I didn’t want to get one in the head or something,” Perron said.
That drew more players over, but there were no fights. When the dust settled, Perron skated to the penalty box with the lone penalty. He couldn’t believe that Howard was penalized.
“To be honest, I’m surprised he didn’t get an extra penalty for that,” Perron said. “Because their d-man pushed me in, and then he jumps on me. At the end of the game, it should at least be even. It’s tough because they scored a big goal. If it’s only 2-1 for us, and they tie it up, then we have to fight back from a call like that. But in the end, we move on.”
At the other end of the ice, Blues goalie Brian Elliott said he watched the situation in amazement. Earlier in the period, Elliott was knocked in the head by Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader, who received a charging penalty.
“Howard jumps on and doesn’t get a penalty for it?” Elliott said. “I asked the ref on the ice if I could do the same thing if I got hit again. I don’t know ... that’s why I think you need to keep fighting in the game because you almost need to police yourself out there.”
These comments got the gears in Rutherford’s head turning, so he penned a column specifically about the spate of goalie-running incidents this morning.
From a Red Wings perspective, what might matter to you and me is the fact that it’s Elliott who’s suggesting that the Wings played “run and gun” hockey when it came to not respecting his territory, and got away with it. In doing so, however, Elliott does make a point, and advance the larger conversation:
On Wednesday, Elliott said another incident in the third period resulted in no penalty and perhaps went undetected by most.
“I got hit, knocked back, and I swiped the puck off the goal line,” Elliott said. “The ref was right there and he said, ‘It wouldn’t have counted anyway.’ So, well, if it wouldn’t count, then it’s goalie interference, so why doesn’t he get a penalty right now? You don’t really know what goalie interference is. You don’t know what constitutes it. Guys get pushed in on you and the ref just says, ‘It’s your guy, it’s your guy’ and play goes on. It has to be better defined. I don’t know if (the penalties) are going up, or with all of the head injuries, it’s just more noticeable now ...”
It’s most certainly a puzzling question, especially—as Wings fans know when Tomas Holmstrom’s doing his job very legally and goaltenders “sell” interference that negates goal—given that goaltenders no longer merely inhabit their creases when stopping pucks:
“Maybe it’s a case of the goalies are out of their crease a little more,” Blues captain David Backes said. “There’s extra incentive to get in front of them and then they’re coming out to take away the angle and there’s some contact. I don’t think (the interference calls) are an epidemic. It’s just part of the game ... guys playing hard and goalies are hockey players, too. They’re tough kids.”
Backes’ comment more or less summarizes why I can understand what Howard did, why Elliott’s angry, and why the Blues very specifically felt particularly slighted because Howard wasn’t penalized for punching a player with a history of concussions in the head while defending his territory.
As Rutherford points out in his first article, Brad Stuart felt as conciliatory about the collision as Howard somewhat understandably defiant, saying this about Perron’s gumption..
“I’m not taking that,” Howard said. “If you’re going to run me like that or try to go through me like that, you’re going to pay the price.”
But if we can hold onto our tinfoil and try to exclude our collective Wings fans’ issues with anything remotely constituting goaltender interference given what Holmstrom has to withstand as part of “battling” in front of the net, and very literally take a beating without retaliating because he is who he is, Rutherford and Ken Hitchcock make a very good point:
“You could call that (Perron penalty) 10 times a week now,” he said. “I don’t know what you can do about that stuff. Every time you turn on the TV, you’re watching Brendan Shanahan. I was thinking as I was driving home one night. In one sportscast, I watched Shanahan (discuss) Jordin Tootoo six times. It just goes viral. It’s a call you’ve got to make, but the video becomes all the news for how many days? That’s the part that upsets me.”
Hell, Paul more or less has to post three or four controversial hits every night because, as a news website, we have to talk about what people are talking about, but there is a question as to whether our instantaneous access to multiple camera angles’ worth of video depicting hits that nobody is ever going to objectively agree on as to “what happened” or who should have been penalized because we’re subjective human beings—and partisan fans on top of that—yields nothing but more disagreement when…
How do I want to put this? Referees and players themselves have to make quick judgment calls and react to these hits based upon equally bias and situation-influenced interpretations of extremely limited information. Refs and players obviously “get it wrong” pretty damn regularly, and it sucks that the outcomes of games tend to hinge upon nebulous interpretations of (particularly in cases of goaltender interference) nebulous rules, but it is the nature of the beast, and in that sense, I do understand what O’Neill’s trying to get at.
Put bluntly, when so much of what constitutes goaltender interference and/or “running” goalies versus players legitimately battling for and/or defending territory that’s supposed to be theirs, a little clarification wouldn’t hurt. It shouldn’t take punches to a concussion-prone player’s head or Lucic running Miller and getting away with it to prompt a straight explanation, but that’s how the game works, for better or worse.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.