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Fraser: Delay of game call on Oilers' Bryzgalov?

Kerry Fraser
1/2/2014 1:09:20 PM
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Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at cmonref@tsn.ca.

Hi Kerry,
 
I have a question on a New Year's Eve game between the Oilers and Coyotes.
 
With 43.3 seconds left in the third period, Edmonton goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov caught a puck that was dumped in from outside the zone, skated out a few feet and dropped the puck to keep the play alive, then had second thoughts and dropped to cover the puck well outside his goal crease.  There was no penalty called on the play.  My question is...why not?  I thought the goalie could only cover the puck outside his crease if he had come out to make a save.  Isn't it a delay of game penalty otherwise?  The Coyotes won the game in overtime, so in the end it didn't matter, but this seems too obvious a thing for the officials to just miss, so I'm hoping you can straighten out my understanding of the rule.
 
Thanks.
Kevin Fisher
Tucson, AZ

Kevin:

There is considerable "black and white" reference within the rules to support calling a delay of game penalty on Ilya Brygalov with 43.4 seconds remaining with the score tied once the goalkeeper froze the puck outside of crease to gain a stoppage in play. As we examine the entire circumstance surrounding the play I hope you will come to the logical conclusion that the referee exercised sound judgment and common sense in not penalizing 'Bryz' once he (the ref) allowed the play to continue. As a result of this allowance, there came a point where Ilya Bryzgalov had no other safe option than to cover the puck.

The most obvious rule references calling for the assessment of a penalty are contained in 63.2 and 67.3:

- 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.

- If a goalkeeper comes out of his crease to "cut down the angle" on a shot and after making the save covers the puck, this shall be legal. If the goalkeeper races out of his crease in an attempt to beat the attacking player to the puck and instead of playing the puck jumps on the puck causing a stoppage of play, this shall be a minor penalty for delay of the game.

- A goalkeeper who holds the puck with his hands for longer than three seconds shall be given a minor penalty unless he is actually being checked by an opponent. The object of this entire rule is to keep the puck in play continuously and any action taken by the goalkeeper which causes an unnecessary stoppage must be penalized without warning.

While the language contained herein provides plenty of cannon fodder to call a penalty with regard to the end result, (puck frozen by Bryz outside his crease) we have to consider the play in its entirety to avoid an unjust determination and overreaction.

Antoine Vermette back handed the puck at the net which Ilya Bryzgalov caught on the extreme left side of his goal crease. Vermette followed his shot and effectively checked the goalkeeper from that angle which provided an allowance for Bryz to freeze the puck under the rules. A decision was then made by Bryzgalov to keep the play going by laterally skating with the puck through and outside of his crease perhaps 5 to 8 feet; which the referee allowed!

Once Bryzgalov dropped the puck from his catching glove to the ice, with full intent to keep the play moving, the goalkeeper was quickly checked by Lauri Korpikoski of the Coyottes and placed in harm's way.  Since Bryz was a minimal distance outside of his crease, coupled with the fact that the referee allowed the play to continue when he could have blown the play dead previously, good judgment was exercised by the referee not to assess a penalty for delay of the game.

We (refs) encourage the goalies to keep the play moving and it would be terribly unjust if they were subsequently penalized when an attacker quickly sealed off any option for a safe movement of the puck. The optimum word here is quickly. Brygalov's primary intent was to keep the play moving by playing the puck and not to gain a stoppage in play. His legitimate freezing of the puck was necessitated by the quick fore-check by Lauri Korpikoski.

Kevin, I just had a flashback to Greg Millen playing goal for the Hartford Whalers. Far too many times to  count I saw Millen catch the puck within his goal crease and skate straight up the middle like a rocket navigating through player traffic while looking for safe ice to drop and play the puck! I always blew the whistle before he got too far into his sprint but certainly when he was well outside of his goal crease. On more than one occasion I told Greg he was going to get steam rolled with a body check before I could get the whistle to my mouth. Each time Millen attempted to keep the play moving in this fashion he returned to his goal crease with a big grin evident beneath his wire cage mask. We know goalies have a much different approach to the Universe and other matters!

Common sense and good judgment must prevail. The referee exercised both qualities by not penalizing Ilya Bryzgalov in the game on New Year's Eve Day.

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 cmonref@tsn.ca!


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

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