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Playoff physicality creeps into crease to impact goaltenders

playoff goalie

Raleigh - May 4: Boston Bruins right wing David Pastrnak (88) gets a 2 minute minor penalty for goalie interference on Carolina Hurricanes Antti Raanta #32 during first period NHL action. The Carolina Hurricanes host the Boston Bruins in Game 2 of playoffs at PNC Arena in Raleigh, NC on May 3, 2022. (Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Boston Globe via Getty Images

The physicality of the NHL playoffs is creeping into the crease.

There has already been a huge goal disallowed due to goaltender interference, a starting goalie was knocked out of a game after taking a shot to the head and one rookie netminder confronted an opposing star forward over unwanted contact.

“I think definitely when the puck’s there and you’re trying to score goals, guys are going to the net, that’s how you score goals,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said Thursday. “There’s going to be that. I’m assuming you’re going to see more of that kind of stuff.

“It’s the other stuff that you’re probably trying to not have in the game — the extra stuff with the contact with the goalies. But it’s playoff hockey and there’s a lot of emotion and certainly a lot of physical element to it.”

Players generally aren’t allowed to make contact with a goaltender, particularly as the goaltender attempts to move within the crease to stop a puck in play. That can lead to officials calling goaltender interference, which can result in a 2-minute minor penalty or a disallowed goal.

Still, there’s a degree of subjectivity when it comes to deciding deciding what is permitted as “incidental” and how much contact is too much.

Throw in the fact that offenses are rolling with aggressive play — especially when it comes to getting traffic in front of the net for “dirty” goals like deflections or rebounds — and it’s easy to see why goaltenders are being bumped and jostled.

Brind’Amour has seen it up close entering Friday’s trip to Boston. Already down No. 1 goaltender Frederik Andersen due to injury, the Hurricanes lost starter Antti Raanta in the first period of Wednesday’s Game 2 win after the Bruins’ David Pastrnak struck him in the head with a gloved hand.

Rookie Pyotr Kochetkov came on and had 30 saves, though he ended up in a brief confrontation after Brad Marchand crosschecked him from behind as he kept the puck in play.

The goaltender objected with a jab of his stick, then his own shove after the play. Marchand responded by swinging his stick to hit Kochetkov as both ended up drawing penalties.

Brind’Amour said it “can’t get any more obvious” the Bruins are targeting his goaltenders. The NHL fined Marchand $5,000 on Thursday for the slash.

The issue emerged in a critical moment during the Pittsburgh-New York Rangers series opener, too.

Tied late in the third period, the Rangers’ Kaapo Kakko collided with Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith — while being pushed by defenseman Brian Dumoulin — with enough force to knock DeSmith fully outside the crease. Kakko sent the puck to Filip Chytil for the easy finish, though the goal was overturned upon review for interference.

The Penguins went on to win in triple overtime, led by backup goaltender Louis Domingue taking over for an injured DeSmith in the second OT.

“It feels like goaltender interference this year has been a big question mark,” Minnesota Wild right wing Marcus Foligno said. “We’ve just got to make sure we take any of that gray area away by just doing our job and making sure we’re not in the crease and that blue-paint area.”