Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Hey Kerry, love the column.
My question concerns the penalty shot by Michael Frolik in Game 6 in Detroit.
With the refs letting so many calls go in the playoffs, was this really a penalty shot situation?
Sure, Frolik had a step on Carlo Colaiacovo and yes he tapped him on the glove with his stick, but was this truly a clear-cut breakaway and an infraction which caused him to lose control of the puck?
A slashing penalty? Sure, but a penalty shot seemed a little excessive to me.
What are your thoughts?
I appreciate the confusion you feel on how a penalty shot could be awarded to Michael Frolik given certain inconsistencies of refs' calls that have occurred in the playoffs. The fact of the matter is that on this play the Referee absolutely made the correct call when he pointed to center ice and awarded the penalty shot. I'll explain why but also expose a glaring inconsistency that resulted on a similar call in Game 4 of this same series between the Hawks and Red Wings when just a minor penalty was assessed.
Rule 24.8 and 57.3 reference conditions under which a penalty shot is to be assessed. The intention of this rule is to restore a reasonable scoring opportunity which has been lost. When a player, in the neutral zone or attacking zone, in control of the puck (or who could have obtained possession and control of the puck) and having no other player to pass than the goalkeeper, is tripped or otherwise fouled from behind, thus preventing a reasonable scoring opportunity, a penalty shot shall be awarded to the non-offending team.
Bruce, it is very important that you understand the four specific conditions that must be met in order for the Referee to award a penalty shot for a player being fouled from behind. They are:
i) The infraction must have taken place in the neutral zone or attacking zone (i.e. over the puck carrier's own blue line);
ii) The infraction must have been committed from behind;
iii) The player in possession and control (or, in the judgment of the Referee, clearly would have obtained possession and control of the puck) must have been denied a reasonable chance to score (the fact that he got a shot off does not automatically eliminate this play from the penalty shot consideration criteria. If the foul was from behind and he was denied a "more" reasonable scoring opportunity due to the foul, then the penalty shot should be awarded);
iv) The player in possession and control (or, in the judgment of the Referee, clearly would have obtained possession and control of the puck) must have had no opposing player between himself and the goalkeeper.
All of these conditions applied when Carlo Colaiacovo slashed at the hands of Michael Frolik. While the slash might not have appeared to be powerful or forceful, Colaiacovo none the less drew his two hands together and the resulting slash from behind caused a loss of puck possession and therefore a loss of a more than reasonable scoring opportunity. The Referee made the correct assessment on this play.
Now I will attempt to address your legitimate confusion, Bruce. In Game 4 with 4:45 remaining in regulation time and Detroit leading by a score of 1-0, Brandon Saad was in all alone on Jimmy Howard. Saad attempted a move with the puck from close in when Jakub Kindl reached from well behind with his stick and fork-hooked the hands of the Chicago attacker. The foul from behind caused Saad to lose possession of the puck and a reasonable scoring opportunity was denied. While this play was another textbook example of a penalty shot, the Referee instead chose to assess a minor penalty to Kindl for hooking.
The call prompted my good friend Kelly Hrudey to comment, "Don't look to center — that's not going to be a penalty shot at that point" (in the game). While Kelly's analysis was predictably accurate (at least in this case) the Referees must eliminate any reluctance to assess a penalty shot when the four conditions have been met, regardless of the score or the time in the game. When a reasonable scoring opportunity has been denied it must be restored as the rule suggests. It is not acceptable for a Referee to take the easy way out by calling a minor penalty when an obvious foul from behind has been committed against a player on a breakaway. It's not a tough call to make; it's the right call!
On February 11, 1982 I called two penalty shots against the Detroit Red Wings in that very same Joe Louis Arena. The Vancouver Canucks, coached by Harry Neale were down 4-2 to Wayne Maxner's Wings midway through the third period. Detroit defenceman Jim Schoenfeld grabbed the puck with his hand in the crease. Thomas Gradin scored to make it 4-3 on the penalty shot.
With just over 30 seconds to play in regulation and the Canucks net empty, Stan Smyl picked up a loose puck at the Vancouver blue line and raced in on a breakaway. Detroit defenceman Reed Larson chased 'Stanley Steamer' from behind and chopped the Canuck down just as he was about to release a shot on Gilles Gilbert. With 30 seconds on the clock and the Wings up by one goal I once again point to center ice and signaled a penalty shot. Smyl was injured as a result of the chop so Neale selected Ivan Hlinka to take the shot. Neale told me later his instructions to Hlinka were very clear: "If you don't score on this penalty shot, just keep skating right out the end of the rink, all the way back to Czechoslovakia!" Needless to say Hlinka scored, the game ended in a tie (no overtime back then) and the beer cups rained down on me! (Excerpted from The Final Call)
While calling a minor penalty would have been the "easier" path for me to take it would not have been the right one!