DENVER — Here we are two games into a new season and the crucial, subjective calls are already working against the Flyers.
Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog positioned himself firmly in Brian Elliott’s crease and redirected a pass from Nathan MacKinnon that the goalie never had a chance at stopping.
The pressing question surrounding the 3-2 go-ahead goal was whether Landeskog’s right leg prevented Elliott from making the save as his stick was hooked around Landeskog’s shin. Head coach Dave Hakstol seemed almost certain at the time that the goal would be reversed.
“I wouldn’t have called it unless I knew it was goalie interference,” Hakstol said after the Flyers' eventual 5-2 loss Saturday to the Avalanche (see observations). “I don’t know what is or what isn’t. I think we’ve probably said that before. Their player was in the crease and took away our goaltender’s stick and did not fight to get out. That’s what I saw and that’s why I called it. I believe that’s goalie interference.”
For a team that was victimized last season by the goaltender interference call, whether it was goals disallowed offensively or seemingly allowed to stand after challenging the play, the Flyers can’t seem to wrap their hands around the standard of what defines the goaltender interference rule.
“That’s another one of the rules I don’t really understand right now,” Elliott said. “I was talking to the ref. He’s in my crease, he impedes my arm coming across and that was interference I thought in the rulebook.”
“There’s a pretty high standard for goaltender interference that the league wants to hold,” Hakstol said. “That wasn’t good enough I guess.”
What’s apparently clear to Elliott and Hakstol after that play is that referees who may see an obvious goalie interference have been instructed to defer to the war room in Toronto.
“They said they don’t call it anymore, so it’s Toronto calling it,” Elliott said. “I’ve got to work to find out the rules this year.”
Even when the calls don’t go the Flyers' way, Saturday’s game in Colorado was a prime example of trying to find a way to overcome it. An early third-period Avalanche penalty allowed the Flyers' power play one more opportunity to come away with the game-tying goal. Spending an entire two minutes in the Avalanche zone with the extra attacker, the Flyers managed five shots on net and two more that were blocked.
And no goal when they desperately needed one.
“I think we’re one little play away, one pass away from making something happen,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. “We got our chances. The goalie stood on his head and made some saves. We were really moving it. I think we could have gotten a little hungrier at the net.”
One way to cure those power-play hunger pains would be to make life uncomfortable in the crease.
After all, who knows what the new standard is this season.