What do Area 51, Sasquatch and the NHL’s review process for goaltender interference all have in common? No one knows a damn thing.
One person who is more than fed up with what remains ill-defined in the NHL is Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock.
Midway through the third period Monday night in Buffalo, Johan Larsson went crusading after a rebound from a Jason Pominville point shot. While on his hunt for the puck, Larsson made contact with Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen and shortly after slipped the puck past the sprawling netminder.
After the goal was upheld via video review, Mike Babcock could do nothing but laugh. And not in a cheery “that’s a good one” kind of way — but one filled with rage, confusion and a stare that made it clear the coach is at his wit’s end with the rule.
After the game, Babcock elaborated more on the play.
“What they told me is he was interfered with outside the paint, which is not true and that, tonight, was goalie interference no matter what way you look at it,” Babcock said.
Babcock’s exasperated expression does not arise from one isolated incident. Like most teams, the Maple Leafs have been victimized by the baffling rule on many occasions this season, including this Auston Matthews goal that was called back in November.
Juxtaposed, these two incidents prove the NHL’s method with goaltender interference review is inexact. But because the NHL has ostensibly softened its stance on the matter, deciding in-season that it will more often than not defer to the call on the ice, it fails to hold up as a standard to formulate any sort of opinion on.
We knew the system was broken, and that changes were needed to fix the problem. But until those changes are laid out coherently, we’ll only see more red-face coaches, Twitter tantrums and concern over what might come in the post-season.