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Regarding Monday's Devils/Rangers game. Prior to the Rangers' second goal, Michael Del Zotto was taken down behind his net and while on the ice, moved the puck with his gloved hand almost completely across his body and threw it behind his body to a waiting teammate. Many fans called for a penalty, but I cannot find an actual reference in the rule book. The only references I can find to "closing a hand on the puck" is in regards to a player catching a puck in mid-air or a player covering up the puck in the crease. Does this fall under the referee's judgment?
Really appreciate your column and it brings so much insight to the fans on what goes on with the officiating. Very helpful.
Quick question regarding the Devils-Rangers Game 1 around covering the puck with your hand. In the first period Anton Volchenkov got called for a delay of game, covering the puck while it appeared that Brian Boyle kept pushing him down when he tried to get up. I understand this could be a penalty, however what amazed me was the blatant covering of the puck by Del Zotto behind the Rangers net in full view of everyone, and no penalty was called. What gives?
Stephen and Martin:
Here is my take on the two plays that you have asked about.
Just prior to 8:09 of the first period a battle for a loose puck in the Devils corner to the left of Martin Brodeur was taking place between Brian Boyle of the Rangers (closest to the boards) and Adam Larsson (pinning Boyle against the end boards from the backside). Anton Volchenkov provided the back door support and picked the loose puck while facing close to the end boards behind Larsson. Volchenkov moved to his left with the puck but while still facing the end boards he was shoved down onto the ice from behind by Ruslan Fedotenko. As Volchenkov fell he made a distinct move to cover the puck with his left hand that was observed by the referee.
Travis Zajac of the Devils moved quickly in and engaged Fedotenko. Volchenkov elevated his body slightly up off the ice onto his knees and elbows. His hand however continued to cover the puck as Boyle pushed down at the head of Volchenkov multiple times prior to the referee blowing the whistle to assess a delay of game penalty to Volchenkov for covering the puck with his hand.
The rule that was violated is 63.2—delaying the game: "A minor penalty shall be imposed on any player, including the goalkeeper, who holds, freezes or plays the puck with his stick, skates or body in such a manner as to deliberately cause a stoppage of play. With regard to a goalkeeper, this rule applies outside of his goal crease area."
While Volchenkov clearly covered the puck with his hand as he fell I have two problems with this assessment and they involve the action of the two Rangers players. First, Fedotenko shoved Volchenkov from behind onto the ice and ultimately the puck. Secondly Boyle continued to shove at the head of Volchenkov and reasonably prevented him from getting up off the puck to allow play to continue.
Whenever this situation presented itself I would yell at the player on the ice to get up and move the puck or a delay of game penalty would be forthcoming. This typically backed off any attacking players such as Boyle from maintaining physical contact with the player on the ice. Once the player (Volchenkov) got up off the puck the attacking player (Boyle) had an advantage to retrieve the loose puck. If the player such as Volchenkov did not heed the warning and remained on the ice covering the puck I would assess the delay of game penalty. Given the physical actions by both Ranger players on Volchenkov I felt this penalty was assessed too quickly without sufficient opportunity to instruct or allow Volchenkov to get up off the ice and allow play to continue.
The second incident is an example of the referee being patient with the whistle when the puck was momentarily covered by Michael Del Zotto's hand after he was taken down from behind by Travis Zajac. In reality Zajac deserved a tripping penalty as he first applied a slight push with his stick blade on the pants of Del Zotto and then down in the feet area once the Ranger defenceman lost his balance.
Let's look at what resulted once Del Zotto fell to the ice as he place his glove over top of the puck. Rule 63.2 from above would not apply because sufficient time did not lapse in the coverage of the puck to cause a stoppage of play. The other potential violation would involve rule 67—handling the puck (closing his hand on the puck").
While a player cannot close his hand on the puck, Stephen is correct that this pertains to catching the puck in the air or picking the puck up off the ice. A player is allowed to cover the puck on the ice with his hand as Del Zotto did and slide it along the ice in a hand pass motion. This is legal so long as he does not cause a stoppage of play through extended coverage, prevents an opponent from playing it or picks it up off the ice and throws it.
Neither of these violations resulted when Del Zotto placed his hand over the puck and then slid it behind his back around the boards to his defence partner Dan Girardi. Girardi was credited with the second assist on the ensuing play up ice that resulted in the scoring of Chris Kreider's third playoff goal.
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