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Hi Kerry! Very much enjoy your articles. A question from Game 4. After Chicago scored their fourth goal Tuukka Rask takes the puck and shoots it at the Blackhawks scrum while celebrating a goal. Isn't that an Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty? I seem to remember in 2009 when the Canadiens played the Washington Capitals in the playoffs Washington scored a goal and Carey Price did the same thing. Price got a penalty for it.
This was a turning point last night as there was no call, next shift Chicago takes a penalty, Boston scores a goal and gets right back in the game. Was that a missed call?
An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for shooting a puck in the direction of an opponent is always a discretionary call. I would hope that before a referee felt the need to assess a penalty for this act (especially against a goalkeeper) certain conditions would have to be met. For it to be considered a dangerous play the velocity of the 'shot' would have to cross a certain threshold. The accuracy of the shooter would also be taken into account as to if and where the puck struck an opponent. Ron Hextall is one goalie that comes to mind that had the ability to really rip a shot with pin-point accuracy along with the disposition to do so without batting a blocker!
Another element that could come into play would be the reaction of the player or players that might take offence to the puck being sent in their direction. If a scrum were to develop as a result of the 'shot' and other penalties were assessed then the Referee would most likely deem the perpetrator of the shot to be the instigator of any subsequent altercation and penalize him accordingly. We have seen an example of this when players take offence to an over-exuberant celebration of a goal scored against them such asa 'rifle shot' gesture into the net.
I saw none of these elements present and worthy of a penalty when Tuukka Rask sent a 'flea flicker' toward the Hawk celebrants following their fourth goal scored by Marcus Kruger on the odd-man rush. What I did see however was some justified frustration grab hold of Rask in this high scoring game that resulted from a lack of defensive support after he made an outstanding initial save on this play.
Rask had to fully extend both legs in the 'splits' on that first save following a nifty cross-crease deke by Kruger after he took the pass from Michael Frolic. Rask's full extension caused him to fall forward and he needed some help to clear the rebound. None was to be found from Zdeno Chara, the lone defender that dove in an attempt to block the pass from Frolic; from Brad Marchand who skated past the net to Rask's right; or from the hardworking Patrice Bergeron who utilized an uncharacteristic glide path from inside his blue line on the back-check to arrive a moment too late and stop Kruger's second attempt from behind the goal line.
After the puck entered the net Rask raised both hands to the TD Garden rafters in frustrated disbelief. Once Rask was back on his skates he cleared the puck from his crease with a 'flick' in the direction of the Hawk celebration at the half-wall. In my judgment it would have been a huge overreaction if either Referee had assessed Rask an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Hextall passed the puck with much more authority than that token gesture by Rask!
On the Radar Screen from Game 4:
This series has already turned out to be a Classic! There were plenty of defensive mistakes made throughout Game 4 by both teams but you can't complain about it being boring. It was a very exciting contest.
By and large the excellent Officiating I witnessed last night enhanced the product and the overall entertainment value that this game provided. Players were allowed to compete hard and on the edge yet were penalized when they crossed the line that had been set by Referees Wes McCauley and Dan O'Halloran. No one should nit-pick their performance as they have raised the officiating bar for all remaining games.
I offer a toot of the whistle for a job well done.