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Why Evgeny Kuznetsov’s goal was waved off, and why he was OK with it

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Why Evgeny Kuznetsov’s goal was waved off, and why he was OK with it

CAPITAL ONE ARENA – Evgeny Kuznetsov celebrated as if he had put the Capitals up 2-0 on Friday against the Buffalo Sabres, but any celebration from the red-clad fans at Capital One Arena was muted as the goal was immediately waved off.

It looked initially like the goal was disallowed just by the narrowest of margins, which would have opened up a flood of criticism following the game had Buffalo been able to come back and win. Based on the NHL’s explanation afterward, however, it ultimately did not matter if the puck had crossed the goal line or not.

After the Caps took a 1-0 lead over Buffalo in the second period, it looked like Kuznetsov had extended their lead to two goals as he tucked a puck into the stretched pads of goalie Carter Hutton and the puck just barely squeaked through onto the goal line.

As it began trickling over the line, the Caps celebrated what they thought was their second goal of the game. The referee, however, who was standing behind the net immediately waved it off as no goal.

Kuznetsov, who thought he had just scored his first goal since Dec. 2, was incredulous and argued over the call. The referee skated over to the booth and talked things over with the Situation Room in Toronto before announcing to the disbelieving Caps faithful that the call on the ice stood.

No goal.

As angry as he appeared to be during the game, however, Kuznetsov took the high road afterward.

“It’s hard to see for me, but they have so many cameras so I always believe them,” Kuznetsov said. “Next time I will put more juice on that puck for sure.”

As you can see from above, it is very close as to whether the puck actually crossed or not. It either just crossed over the goal line or just stayed on. It is very hard to tell…and also irrelevant.

The goal was waved off not because the referee decided it had not crossed yet, but because of a unique NHL rule often referred to as “intent to blow.”

After the goal was disallowed, the NHL released a statement explaining the decision.

At 8:10 of the second period in the Sabres/Capitals game, the Situation Room initiated a video review to further examine a play at the Buffalo net. The Referee informed the Situation Room that he blew his whistle to stop play when he lost sight of the puck as it laid on the goal line. The decision was made in accordance of Rule 31.2 which states, in part, that "the Referee may deem the play to be stopped slightly prior to the whistle actually being blown. The fact that the puck may come loose or cross the goal line prior to the sound of the whistle has no bearing if the Referee has ruled that the play had been stopped prior to this happening." This is not a reviewable play, therefore the Referee's call on the ice stands - no goal Washington Capitals.

In hockey, a play is not dead when the whistle blows, it actually is considered to be over when the referee determines the play is dead. A referee is instructed to blow a play dead when a goalie covers up the puck and the referee loses sight of it. The moment he decides to blow the whistle, the play is over. Whatever happens from that point on until when he actually blows the whistle is immaterial.

There was no actual review of the goal and no ruling on whether the puck actually crossed the line because the play is not reviewable. It was simply determined to be no goal because the referee lost sight of the puck under Hutton and decided the play was dead before the puck squeaked through.

“Intent to blow” is often a frustrating concept for fans to grasp as there is no other sport that determines a play to be over before a whistle or buzzer sounds. The call was not an insignificant one on Friday and could easily have changed the trajectory of the game. It kept the score at 1-0 and Buffalo was able to tie it at 1 in the third period.

Kuznetsov would ultimately get the last laugh, however, as he stole the puck away from goalie Carter Hutton in the third period to set up Tom Wilson for the game-winning goal. That goal, there was no disputing.

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What should the NHL look like when the season resumes? Caps GM weighs in on the possibilities

What should the NHL look like when the season resumes? Caps GM weighs in on the possibilities

The NHL season has been paused for two weeks and, with no real timetable for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, no one knows when the season could resume. Whenever it does, there is no question that the season format will have to be tweaked in some way to account for the special circumstances. Because of that, just what the season should look like when play resumes has become a major topic of discussion in hockey circles.

Alex Ovechkin said on Thursday that he would like to see the league jump straight into the playoffs. On Monday, Caps general manager Brian MacLellan weighed in.

"Fair to me would be all teams play the same number of games, both home and away," he said on a conference call, "So depending on the time you have when we come back or if we come back, you could set the schedule at 72, 74 games, close to possible of home and away if you could even those out and then kind of go from there after that."

For MacLellan, the biggest issues are the quality of play in the playoffs and the readiness of the players for that high-intensity hockey.

“I think ideally if time permitted, you would like a few games, but I would also be OK with jumping in the playoffs. I think for the benefit of the quality of play and the players’ health, ideally you’re playing a few games before you enter the playoffs.”

"It's going to be a challenge," he added. "We're going to end up being at least two months off, and to come in at various levels of conditioning -- some of it out of the players' hands -- it's going to be a hard thing to accomplish, to get players into game shape and send them into a playoff-type situation almost immediately."

One issue is that even when the coronavirus is under control, that doesn't mean the threat is totally gone. Unless there is a vaccine, should the NHL return this season certain precautions will have to be taken when the players return to begin practicing.

MacLellan said the team is discussing the possibility of small group skates and what precautions the team can take at its practice facility, MedStar Capitals Iceplex, to help prevent any of the players from contracting the virus.

"We've talked about that scenario taking place where we get on the other side of the virus curve and there's beginnings of you can have small groups," MacLellan said. "Could we structure something at [Medstar Capitals Iceplex] where we're bringing in three, four guys at a time? How do we handle sanitizing the training room, the equipment room? We've gone through these scenarios to be prepared if that becomes the case. If they say in June, OK you can start doing this, as an organization we want to be prepared for it. So that is a possibility and we're discussing it internally."

These are issues that must be discussed because the NHL is adamant that the Stanley Cup be awarded this year and that means probably playing hockey deep into the summer.

"I think depending on how the country, the world handles the virus, I think there is a possibility of playing end of June, July, August," MacLellan said. "I think the league is prepared, they've asked for building dates in August so I'm assuming it's a serious consideration on their part."

Just what that hockey will look like, however, is anyone's guess. There are still too many questions and too many unknowns about the league's possible return for there to be any definitive playoff format for the 2019-20 season. Until there is some clarity on when play may resume and how much time there will be for the remainder of the current season, then everyone remains in the dark.

"There's no set answer to it because I don't know how much time we're going to have," MacLellan said. "If we have eight weeks, do we have ten weeks, do we have more than 10 weeks? Depending on that time frame and if that's even legitimate at the time, you would have to set your schedule there. So could you shorten a series? Could you shorten the end of the schedule? I think all those options are on the table and I think it's just how the virus plays out and how we handle it and how much time we would have to get a season in if we could get a season in at the end."

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WATCH: Carl Hagelin is staying in shape by working out with his daughter

WATCH: Carl Hagelin is staying in shape by working out with his daughter

One of the biggest challenges for professional athletes during this coronavirus pandemic is keeping in shape. The lack of practices and games has forced them to find other ways to work out.

Capitals forward Carl Hagelin is doing his best to keep his legs ready for the return of the NHL season by high stepping in his front yard—with his one-year-old daughter Blanche.

If anything good has come out of this outbreak, it’s been the influx of home videos from athletes hanging out with their families.

Hagelin hasn’t posted much on Instagram since the social distancing guidelines went into effect, but this video with Blanche is already one of the best that’s come from a Capitals player so far.

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