Ron Hextall, Flyers dumbfounded by NHL's explanation for no-goal calls

Ron Hextall, Flyers dumbfounded by NHL's explanation for no-goal calls

TORONTO — If the NHL rulebook had any more shades of gray to it, the league could probably rebrand it as a romance novel.

Thursday night in Ottawa only added another layer of depth to its confusing text when Sean Couturier scored what clearly appeared to be the game-tying goal (watch the goal here), as he pushed the puck across the line and into Craig Anderson’s glove (see story).

Friday, the NHL defended its controversial ruling but stating “the play was not reviewable,” which begs the obvious question, why would the on-ice officials send the play to the NHL’s situation room in Toronto for a review if the rule states it’s not a reviewable play? Perhaps, the guys in stripes, like many of us, aren’t completely sure how the rulebook reads.

“They’re obviously going to defend it. They have to, right?” Wayne Simmonds said. “They can’t say they’re wrong. There’s lot of pride (in the league office), and no one willing to swallow it.”

The NHL already had a lump in their collective throats from admitting just a week ago that officials and the situation room erred in a game between the Avalanche and the Blues when video review incorrectly nullified Colorado’s late goal. It was the first instance since coaching challenges were introduced in 2015-16 that the league admitted a mistake was made on an offside review.

With that in mind, there was no way Gary Bettman and associates were about to fess up to a decision that can be attributed to a convoluted set of rules. 

In the case of Couturier’s goal, there’s Rule 78.5 section (xii): Apparent goals shall be disallowed when the referee deems the play has been stopped, even if he had not physically had the opportunity to stop play by blowing the whistle. 

Which seems to be contradicted by Rule 38.4 (viii): The video review process shall be permitted to assist the referees in determining the legitimacy of ALL potential goals. … This would also include situations whereby the referee stops play or is in the process of stopping the play because he has lost sight of the puck and it is subsequently determined by video review that the puck crosses the goal line.

You can see how rule 78.5 and rule 38.4 are playing this jurisdictional tug-of-war.

Prior to that, the Flyers were victimized by rule 69.3 — Contact Inside the Goal Crease which says (in part): If a goalkeeper, in the act of establishing his position within his goal crease, initiates contact with the attacking player who is in the goal crease and this results in an impairment of the goalkeeper’s ability to defend his goal, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.

Such was the case when Anderson grazed Jordan Weal, nullifying what would have been a goal that brought the Flyers to a 4-3 deficit. The key word in that rule is “impairment.” How much impairment is required to disallow a goal? Just over the past few years, we’ve seen that particular call go either way.  

“For me, there’s so many changes from year to year and what they’re calling from goalie interference and things like that, where I don’t even know the rules,” goalie Brian Elliott said. “I don’t even know when a guy bumps me. You have time to reset, but you’re not on your angle, and he scores, is that interference? Yes, but I don’t know. There are so many things that you go out there and you complain that you got interfered with and see what happens.” 

The video review process and the technology that comes with a multitude of camera angles was intended to fix all of this. Instead, it has seemed to only add an additional layer of confusion.   

“It's supposed to have no mistakes, right?” Simmonds said. “What’s the point of having the video if you can’t get it right?” 

And a rulebook should be written much like a set of laws, and those who are asked to follow those rules and laws should have a clear understanding of its context.

“I guess you look back and say, ‘What didn’t we learn?’ I’m not sure,” Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said. “We don’t agree with either call. I’ve talked to some people, but those are confidential conversations. There’s no sense getting into it. We’re not going to get the goal back.”

A comprehensive rulebook is now the subject of subjectivity in which layers of protection have given those who make the rules a necessary “out clause” when needed. When asked what’s fair or what’s not in today’s game, Hextall probed just a little deeper.

“It’s society, right? Those of us who lived 30 years ago, we know differently," Hextall said. "That’s where we’re at. It’s not changing. The game is different. The game has changed with society.”  

Flyers call up Danick Martel, Samuel Morin

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Flyers call up Danick Martel, Samuel Morin

Mired in a five-game losing streak and in last place in the Metropolitan Division, the Flyers on Wednesday recalled defenseman Samuel Morin and forward Danick Martel from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

Both players are expected to be in the lineup Wednesday against the Islanders in New York. In corresponding moves, the Flyers sent forward Matt Read, who cleared waivers Tuesday, and defenseman Mark Alt to the Phantoms.

The 22-year-old Martel has been on fire with the Phantoms. He leads the AHL with 14 goals in 17 games this season, including a hat trick in the season opener to go along with a six-game scoring streak.

“He’s taken a step this year, for sure,” Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said Tuesday. “He’s been a good player the last couple of years, but this year, he’s clearly taken a step. He’s a dangerous player when he’s on the ice. That’s a good thing. One game in Hershey he must have had six or seven chances. We’re happy with Danick.”

Morin started the season on the Flyers' roster and remained through their four-game road trip. He suffered an injury in an Oct. 28th game against Hartford and tried to play through it in the event he would be called up to rejoin the Flyers. Morin returned to the Phantoms' lineup last week.

“Mark has played well for us,” Hextall said before Tuesday's 5-2 loss to Vancouver. “We like Sam. We kept him on the opening road trip. People, I hope, know what we think of him. He certainly knows what we think of him and right now, he’s playing 20-plus minutes. That’s where he’s at.”

Wednesday’s game at the Barclays Center could mark the first time the Flyers have played much-heralded defensive prospects Travis Sanheim, Robert Hagg and Morin in the same regular season game.

“It’s certainly not a perfect world, but as you get injured, you say, we don’t live in a perfect world,” Hextall said. “Is it necessarily what we want? No, not really. We’ve got five young guys, two last year that are pretty big pieces. We’re pretty young right now with some pretty important players. In saying that if a young guy’s ready to play and he’s our best option then that’s what we’re going to go with.”

Best of NHL: Vladimir Tarasenko records 4 points as Blues rip Oilers

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Best of NHL: Vladimir Tarasenko records 4 points as Blues rip Oilers

ST. LOUIS -- Vladimir Tarasenko had two goals and two assists and got in a rare fight Tuesday night, helping the St. Louis Blues to an 8-3 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.

Brayden Schenn also had two goals and two assists, and Jake Allen stopped 26 shots for the NHL-leading Blues.

Tarasenko's fight came in the second period. In just the third scrap of his six-year career, Tarasenko tangled with Matt Benning and landed a solid right hand much to the crowd's delight.

Tarasenko was reacting to Benning's near-collision with Schenn that was almost a knee-on-knee hit.

It was Tarasenko's second career Gordie Howe hat trick -- a goal, an assist and a fight in the same game. The other one came on Nov. 13, 2014, against Nashville.

St. Louis (16-5-1) scored two goals in each of the first two periods before adding four in a wide-open third.

Tarasenko got his 11th goal 3:16 into the first period on two deflections. Shooting from the slot, he scored when his shot hit Connor McDavid's stick and then Adam Larsson's stick for a 1-0 lead.

Tarasenko has 14 points in his last 13 games (nine goals, five assists) against the Oilers (see full recap).

Stars rally for home win over Canadiens
DALLAS -- Devin Shore and Jason Spezza scored 59 seconds apart late in the second period to lift the Dallas Stars over the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 on Tuesday night.

Shore had no goals in the first 19 games this season, but scored for the second straight game to tie it 1-all at 18:22 of the second. Spezza, who also has scored in consecutive games after netting only one goal in the first 19, put in a rebound just less than a minute later.

Shore had an assist on Spezza's goal. So did Tyler Seguin, who scored into an empty net with 27 seconds to play.

Ben Bishop made 29 saves for Dallas on his 31st birthday. He allowed only a power-play goal by Brendan Gallagher at 12:04 of the second. Gallagher scored on a rebound after Charles Hudon sent a slap shot from the blue line.

After that, the Stars killed off all three Montreal power plays in the third period.

Canadiens goalie Charlie Lindgren had 26 saves.

Neither team scored in the first period. The best chance came with 2:15 remaining, when Mattias Janmark skated in alone on Lindgren, who stopped the shot with his glove and smothered the puck on the ice.

Montreal had a 4-on-3 power play to end the first period and start the second. The Stars killed off that penalty and finished 4 for 5 on the penalty kill.

The Canadiens had a scoring chance 4 minutes into the second when Brandon Davidson's wrist shot trickled past Bishop. Gemel Smith knocked the loose puck out of the crease for the Stars.

Gallagher had two close-in chances on rebounds after Hudon's shot and poked the second into the net for the game's first goal (see full recap).