McKenzie: Giving the boot to the kicked-in-goal debates

Bob McKenzie

4/20/2010 10:56:59 AM

To be honest, I would like to "propel" the NHL's rule for disallowing kicked-in goals into outer space, never to be seen again.

But unlike a lot of Vancouver Canucks fans, I don't believe anyone is out to get them. The Canucks are not a victim of a grand conspiracy so much as a proclivity to take too many penalties at a time when their penalty killing, and perhaps their goaltending, isn't where it needs to be. And besides, the series, at 2-1 for Los Angeles, is far from over.

The fact that the man who made the no-goal decision last night on Daniel Sedin in Los Angeles is Mike Murphy, the NHL's director of hockey operations who once played and coached in Los Angeles, has no bearing on anything unless you happen to wear a tin-foil hat.

You may not like Murphy's decision, and I don't, but where he once played or coached has no bearing on anything because the man has integrity and cares about doing the right thing because he's a professional. And if someone wants to draw a line from last night's no-goal to a linesman deciding to call a too many men on the ice penalty in overtime in Game 2 to Auger-gate, well, better to just to move to Dealey Plaza in Dallas with all the other world-class conspiracy theorists.

That said, this rule has to go, mostly because it's too hard to understand, too hard to explain and just too darn confusing.

These kicked-in goal debates are the bane of our existence on the TSN panel. No matter who is on the panel, we almost never see it the same way.

It used to be that the "distinct kicking motion" was the smoking gun, whatever a "distinct kicking motion" is, because everyone seems to have a different notion of exactly what that is.

Then the key word became "propel," which means we are into physics and that's bad news for me. If I hadn't cheated by writing a couple of formulas on the buttons of my shirt I would have failed Grade 11 physics.

As best as I can understand, the most important aspect of whether a "off the skate" goal is going to be permitted is where did the puck originate before it struck the blade of the player's skate?

If it's a shot from the point (i.e. headed toward the net), unless that player winds up and boots the puck with Lui Passaglia vigor into the net, chances are pretty good it's going to be a good goal. That's because the puck's "propulsion" is already in that direction.

If it's a shot from the hash marks on the boards, that is to say a 90 degree bank job off a skate in front, the likelikhood of goal being disallowed the league is probably about 50-50. That is where the whole "distinct kicking motion" could be as important as how it was "propelled" into the net.

But if it's a pass out from behind the net – as it was last night on the Sedin no-goal – you have to ask yourself, how does a puck travelling north end up going south into the net? There are only two possibilities.

One, the puck is shot with such force from behind the net that it strikes the blade of a stationary player and effectively bounces into the goal. That would be a good goal because the player did nothing to "propel" the puck into the net. It happened on its own. It's a deflection.

Or two, the player is moving towards the net, as Sedin was, and the puck strikes his skate. Because he's in motion toward the net when the puck hits his skate, he "propels" it into the net. Based on the NHL rule wording, it's no goal.

That's why when I saw Sedin going to the net and the puck coming out from behind the net I automatically assumed "no goal."

But that whole explanation is a difficult concept to understand and a difficult concept to explain, and trust me when I tell you if you have 30 seconds to make your case on the TSN panel, it's going to come out as mostly babble.

For years now, NHL on TSN host James Duthie has opined that any puck off a skate, kicked or not, should be a good goal so long as the skate blade remains on the ice (in order to promote safety and not having players dangerously flashing their blades in a heavy traffic area).

I've always resisted on that safety issue, but now, I cry Uncle.

Make 'em all count, unless the blade comes off the ice and use video review to figure that out. There'll still be some where it's tough to tell and there will still be some controversies but no more and probably less than those questionable "was the puck knocked in with a high stick debates."

But that isn't going to happen in these playoffs, so the Canucks are left to work on what they can control – taking fewer penalties, doing a better job of killing them when they do take them and getting better goaltending from Roberto Luongo.