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Fraser: Assessing Ryan Malone's hit on Jonas Gustavsson

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Kerry Fraser
11/23/2011 2:24:44 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 cmonref@tsn.ca! 

Kerry,
 
Game between Tampa Bay and Toronto on Tuesday - Jonas Gustavsson played the puck behind the net then proceeded to skate backwards to his crease then was hit from behind and knocked to the ice, should that not of been called an interference penalty since he already played the puck and was in motion to go back to his goal crease?
 
Jeff  
Dryden, ON
 
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Hi Kerry,
 
I am sure you saw or will be heard about last night's game, when Malone "ran over" Gustavsson. I was quite surprised - along with the Leaf bench - that no penalty was called?? Is it open season on goalies?
 
I would like to hear your opinion on this one, thanks for taking the time to read this.
Tony A.
 
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Good day,
 
So while watching the Leafs-Bolts game Tuesday night, one of the Tampa players (Ryan Malone) hit the Toronto goalie (Jonas Gustavsson) from behind and knocking him down, no call on the play and the replay appears to show the ref pointing at the goal crease. I can understand a goalie being in play even though I have heard comments that suggest a goalie is not in play, but how is this not a penalty?  Maybe not goalie interference, but what about hitting from behind?  C'Mon Ref....was there a blown call?
 
Jason Bell
St. Catherine's, ON
 
MEMO TO LEAF NATION:

Kerry Fraser would have given Ryan Malone a minor penalty for making unnecessary contact with 'The Monster' in Tampa last night! Here's why.

Given the clear direction Brendan Shanahan received from the General Managers following the Lucic-Miller incident (that special protection is to be granted all goalkeepers under the rules) either rule 42.1-Charging or rule 69.4 Contact Outside the Goal Crease (Interference on the Goalkeeper) should have been applied. As Brendan Shanahan said following his non-suspension decision to Milan Lucic, "It is not open season on goalkeepers."

In fairness to the referee on the play, Jonas Gustavsson was in backward motion in an effort to return to his goal crease after playing the puck. Ryan Malone was in full flight on the fore-check and approached Gustavsson in a very congested area with limited space to maneuver. 

Since Gustavsson was moving, the referee might have felt that the goalie took away Malone's lane in his pursuit of the puck. A legitimate question could arise as to which player was most at fault for the resulting contact since both players were in motion.  As such, could the resulting contact be deemed purely "incidental?"

I say NO. The flaw in the above thinking is that the onus is clearly placed on Ryan Malone to avoid contact as stated in the language of both rules I have referenced.  Malone could have thrown the brakes on just like Daniel Briere did on his latest shoot-out maneuver to avoid contact.

Rules 42.1 and 69.4 state that a goalkeeper is not 'fair game' just because he is outside the goal crease, a penalty is to be assessed in every case where an attacking player makes unnecessary contact with the goalkeeper, and 'incidental contact' is permitted when the goalkeeper is in the act of playing the puck outside his goal crease provided the attacking player (Malone) has made a reasonable effort to avoid such unnecessary contact.

Jonas Gustavsson was no longer playing the puck when he was contacted from behind by Ryan Malone. Gustavsson was in fact attempting to return to his goal crease and not deliberately running interference on an attacking player.

I quote from rule 69.4: "When a goalkeeper has played the puck outside of his crease and is then prevented from returning to his crease area due to the deliberate actions of an attacking player, such player may be penalized for goalkeeper interference..."

In viewing the long approach on the fore-check taken by Malone and the ability that he had to avoid contact with Gustavsson, albeit at the last stride or two, a minor penalty for interference on the goalkeeper would have been best served in this incident. 

From a broader perspective, given the sensitivity and heightened awareness following Ryan Miller's concussion suffered from the Milan Lucic contact, a penalty would send the correct message to all players throughout the League,

MEMO TO PLAYERS: Avoid the goalkeeper at all cost - hunting season is effectively cancelled!

Jonas Gustavsson (Photo: Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)
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