Fraser: Sorting out the 5-on-3 from the Habs-Rangers game

Kerry Fraser
11/7/2011 8:48:57 PM
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Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry Fraser wants to answer your emails at!

Hi Kerry,
Love your segment, keep up the great work, makes for interesting reading. In the Canadiens/Rangers game this past Saturday, how is it that Montreal ended up defending a 5-3 on Blunden's hit on Dubinsky? At the very least it should have been a 5-4 as Callahan retaliated or at least even. Why did the refs call both interference and too many men, should it not have been one or the other? Anyway I don't understand why Blunden was called for interference as he went after the man with the puck.
Mike Pouliot
Hey Kerry,
Saturday's game between the Canadiens and Rangers was in my opinion, one of the worst reffed games in recent memory. I'll take the too many men penalty, but the interference call on Blunden (which was pure fantasy since Dubinsky had the puck on his stick) and the non-calls with regards to two deserved instigator penalties to the New York players showed blatant bias! The 5-on-3 early in the game set the tone for the entire game and caused the Habs players to play on their heels for fear of being called on every little thing. What was your take on this game?
Paul Layden
Hey Kerry,
I love your blog, and I'm hoping you can shed some light on the Habs vs. Rangers game Saturday.
Early in the first period,
Brandon Dubinsky receives a stretch pass in the neutral zone. Michael Blunden, coming onto the ice, delivers a monster hit. He seemed to have jumped off the bench early since the player he was replacing was still relatively far from the bench, so the Habs were appropriately assessed a 'too many men' bench minor, but Blunden also got called for interference on the play. Dubinsky clearly had the puck in his possession since he had already received the pass, the hit appears 'legal' from that perspective.
Also in the ensuing scrum,
Ryan Callahan skated from the neutral zone to pick a fight with Blunden. No instigator penalty was given on the play, leaving the Habs down two men for a Rangers 5-on-3 power play. It seems to me that the referees incorrectly gave out these minor penalties and the end result shouldn't have been more then a 5-on-4.
Care to give your insight?
Michael from Montreal

Good morning Kerry,
I thought I could just sleep on it and forget, but I'm still bitter about last night's Habs/Rangers game. Early in the first, the refs left the Habs crippled, giving the Rangers an extremely questionable 5-on-3 power play. Mike Blunden was given an interference call for a clean body check, while the team was assessed a too many men penalty. Upon review, I see the too many men penalty, but I don't see how we could get pegged for the interference as well. Is it because Blunden was on the ice illegally? Dubinsky had the puck, and Blunden made full body contact. Nonetheless, if they made a bad interference call along with the too many men, how did
Ryan Callahan not get an instigator penalty to even it out at 5-on-4? The refs have been calling those like crazy this year, and this seemed like a clear cut case of the same exact thing; clean hit becomes an unnecessary fight.
Enlighten me!
Eric from Montreal
Hi Kerry,
I watched Canadiens vs. Rangers and it seemed to me that the referees totally missed the game with their calls.
Brandon Dubinsky had the puck when he was hit by Mike Blunden coming off the bench. Was the referee caught off guard by the good contact? Maybe the 'too many men on the ice,' but why the extra two for interference? On the same play, Ryan Callaghan definitely deserved an instigating penalty and the result was 5-on-3 for the Rangers! In your opinion, were the right calls made?
Julien Boulanger

Kerry's Response
WOW - Almost Too Many Bloggers on the page! Is there a TSN - Too Many Men rule against that Kelvin Chow? (Kelvin, who is with, told me this is only five of the tons of mail on this question so it must really have the Habs fans riled up.)

When a dust up like this happened to me on the ice I always did my best to subscribe to the K.I.S.S. theory (keep it simple stupid) to get the game going as quickly and efficiently as possible. There's no sugarcoating this one.

This is my penalty assessment on the play after watching the entire episode:

MTL: 2-Minute Bench Minor Penalty - Too Many Men on the Ice
MTL: Michael Blunden - 5 Minutes Fighting
NYR: Ryan Callahan - 2 Minutes Instigating + 5 Minutes Fighting + 10 minutes misconduct
NYR: Brandon Dubinsky – 2 Minutes Roughing
MTL: Hal Gill - 2 Minutes Roughing
MTL: Petteri Nokelainen – 5 Minutes Fighting + Game Misconduct (secondary altercation)
NYR: Michael Sauer - 5 Minutes Fighting + Game Misconduct (secondary altercation)

Montreal would then place a man in the penalty box to serve the bench minor and New York would have the option to place a man in the box to serve Ryan Callahan's minor or the logical move would be to have Brandon Dubinsky serve his minor on the clock so as not to sacrifice another player in the box when cancelling out the coincident major and minor penalties. The teams would play 4 on 4 (Not 5 on 3...)

Now the long answer:

Clearly Montreal had Too Many Men on the ice when Mike Blunden came onto the ice and made body contact with Brandon Dubinsky while Blunden's retiring teammate was still physically on the ice. (Rule 74.1 - If in the course of making a substitution, either the player entering the game or the player retiring from the ice surface plays the puck with his stick, skates or hands or who checks or makes any physical contact with an opposing player while either the player entering the game or the retiring player is actually on the ice, then the infraction of "too many men on the ice" will be called.)

Dubinsky clearly had received the puck on the stretch pass and would be deemed in possession; therefore the check that was put on him by Blunden could not be deemed "interference". The contact was a perfectly administered body check (shoulder to chest) and would have been deemed legal save for the fact that Montreal had six skaters on the ice.

Take a breath here, Habs fans, as I attempt to make a plausible (or feeble) explanation as to why it might have been viewed otherwise on the ice by the ref(s). With the ragged line change the initial focus of the ref(s) might have been on the change and not on Dubinsky receiving the pass just prior to impact. Once impact was made the puck was clearly long gone from the immediate vicinity of the check. While this was the wrong assessment on a bang-bang play like this, a quick shift of visual focus of attention can result in a missed call. Blunden perhaps took the refs by surprise as much as he did Dubinsky. Plausible or feeble; you make the call!

To address another point in your questions, just because a penalty for Too Many Men is called it would not negate any other illegal act that took place on the play. For example if Blunden had slashed, punched, tripped, elbowed or fouled Dubinsky in some fashion he would be penalized accordingly and in addition to the Too Many Men penalty. If in fact Dubinsky did not have the puck or it was a reasonable distance from him then an interference penalty could conceivably be called. Not the case here, however.

In a perfect world an instigator penalty would have been assessed to Callahan for the distance he travelled to grab and start a fight with Blunden. The referee could then send a clear message that the initial infraction was being called (Too Many Men on the ice) and if restraint had been shown the non-offending team (Rangers) would go on the power play. Not the case here either as the wrong message was sent and the Rangers gained a two-man advantage.
The Rangers were able to score one power play goal with the two-man advantage.

That's the plain "No Sugar and K.I.S.S." answer.

Kerry Fraser

Kerry Fraser

Kerry Fraser is an analyst for the NHL on TSN and That's Hockey 2Nite on TSN2. As one of the league's most recognizable senior referees, he's worked 1,904 NHL regular season games and 261 playoff games during his 37-year career.

Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at!

You can also follow Kerry Fraser on Twitter at @kfraserthecall!

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