The “crease rule” does not exist.
It’s something that often gets forgotten in oversimplification of goalie interference calls. Shortly after Brett Hull beat Dominik Hasek to give the Dallas Stars the 1999 Stanley Cup Championship, the NHL eliminated the rule that said any time a skater was in his opponent’s crease, any goals scored would be called back (unless they were Cup-winning goals, it seemed).
Thus, when I see people reviewing Pavel Datsyuk‘s waved off goal from last night and saying, “Yeah, Abdelkader’s skate was in the crease.” cringe a little.
Okay, a lot.
Abdelkader could have been tap-dancing on the goal line and if there was no contact between he and Montreal goalie Carey Price, any puck that ends up in the net should have counted.
Rule 69.1, Interference of the Goaltender, is now entirely based on contact. Incidental, non-incidental, or lack of contact.
No contact and it’s a good goal. Non-incidental contact (the attacking player did it on purpose) and there’s a penalty in additon to the goal coming back. Incidental contact gets no penalty but the goal doesn’t count either.
Incidental contact is described as follows:
an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal
It’s further explained as
The overriding rationale of this rule is that a goalkeeper should have the ability to move freely within his goal crease without being hindered by the actions of an attacking player. If an attacking player enters the goal crease and, by his actions, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to defend his goal, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.
The problem is that there are two sometimes-competing scenarios here.
The goalie should be allowed to defend his goal. That’s the one we hear a lot, where an attacking player prevented the goalie from making a save.
An entirely different concept is that the goalie should be allowed to move freely within his crease.
I submit a series of scenarios: A goalie, call him Carey Price, is coming out to face a shooter, call him Pavel Datsyuk, wide open in the faceoff circle to his right. At the opposite post, another attacker, call him Justin Abdelkader, is perched in the crease, tap-dancing.
In Scenario 1, Datsyuk’s shot is easily stopped. No interference penalty, no goal.
In Scenario B, Datsyuk rips a shot over Price’s shoulder to the near corner. No contact between Price and Abdelkader, the goal counts.
In Scenario III, Datsyuk rips a shot into the near top corner. Price, inexplicably, dives across the crease and crashes into Abdelkader. Abdelkader has impeded Price’s ability to move about his crease, even though there’s no reason for Price to have gone there in the first place. The goal comes back.
Last night, Price inexplicably moved to his right, where Abdelkader was, causing the incidental contact while Datsyuk’s shot flew past him to his left. If the “overriding rationale” of the rule is to allow the goalie to move wherever he wants in his crease for whatever reason, I concede that he right call was made. If it’s to stop a player from impairing the goalie’s ability to defend his goal, that was the wrong call.