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I am emailing in reference to last night's game between the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils.
I am very curious as to your take on the referee's decision to not call either a penalty for delay of game or a penalty shot on a play that occurred at 6:12 (13:48 game clock) of the second period. The puck is thrown on net and a scramble ensues. New Jersey's defenceman Anton Volchenkov, clearly purposefully covers the puck between his legs in an attempt to stop the play and keep the Rangers from having a scoring opportunity!
The play occurs within the crease. The rulebook, "63.5", states, "No defending player, except the goalkeeper, will be permitted to fall on the puck, hold the puck, pick up the puck, or gather the puck into the body or hands when the puck is within the goal crease. For infringement of this rule, play shall immediately be stopped and a penalty shot shall be ordered against the offending team, but no other penalty shall be given. The rule shall be interpreted so that a penalty shot will be awarded only when the puck is in the crease at the instant the offense occurs. However, in cases where the puck is outside the crease, Rule 63 may still apply and a minor penalty may be imposed, even though no penalty shot is awarded."
The referee is right on top of the action so it seems clear to me that he ought to have called SOMETHING. I understand penalty shots are tough to come by, but this infraction seems to either qualify for either a penalty shot or a minor. Can you please, if possible, shed some light on how, or why, a referee might not call either?
Your understanding of Rule 63.5 (as quoted) is correct when a defending player falls on, gathers, holds, covers or picks up the puck when he is within the goal crease.
If you back up to 63.2 there is a caveat that is applied in the standard to determine a delay of game penalty which states, "Any player who drops to his knees to block a shot should not be penalized if the puck is shot under him or becomes lodged in his clothing or equipment but any use of the hands to make the puck unplayable should be penalized promptly."
This interpretation carries forward to the violation in the goal crease. As we see on the replay, Anton Volchenkov falls to the ice inside the blue paint with his legs extended outward (at 1:30 of the video linked here). The puck is shot into him and rebounds toward the top of the goal crease but still within Volchenkov's grasp.
Had the puck remained under the Devils player or caught up in his equipment no penalty shot would be assessed (The same application would apply outside of the goal crease whereby a minor penalty would not be warranted). Any subsequent and deliberate action by the defending player to cover or gather the puck under his body within the goal crease would result in the assessment of the penalty shot.
Referee Stephen Walkom was making his way from deep in the corner to a location behind the net when the puck was shot into Volchenkov. From that location, Walkom was not in the best position to see the action in the crease and quite possibly the Devil player close his legs together to cover the puck. (Making a 'snow angel' is not a reasonable excuse here.)
By the time the referee did get in position behind the goal (and as you said was, 'right on top of the action'), all he would have seen was Volchenkov on his back like a lifeless statue with the puck underneath him.
I can only assume, that based on the delay by the referee in getting to the net, he did not see Volchenkov close his legs and cover the puck following the shot that would have appeared to go under the Devils defenceman's body.
Had the play been correctly observed in its entirety the 'something' you are wondering about should have been called a penalty shot.