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Orlov goal disallowed on controversial challenge

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Orlov goal disallowed on controversial challenge

In a night where nothing seemed to go right for the Caps, when they did finally manage to get on the board and take the first step towards a rally against the San Jose Sharks, a coach's challenge ended that rally before it could even begin. San Jose goalie Martin Jones shutout the Caps in a 5-0 win on Tuesday with an assist by referee Tim Peel who disallowed the Caps' only goal of the night after a coach's challenge for goalie interference.

"I was going, 'Really?' That's pretty light on that side," said head coach Barry Trotz.

The coach's challenge is new to the NHL this season. If a team still has a timeout, coaches can challenge goals asserting that the scoring team was either offsides or interfered with the goalie. San Jose coach Peter DeBoer put his challenge to good use on Tuesday to deny the Caps their only goal.

"It took a little air out of our balloon for sure," Matt Niskanen said. "That's the new thing though. They get to have a second look at it and overall that's a good rule I think."

With the Caps trailing 3-0 in the second period, it appeared as if they had pulled one back as Dmitry Orlov rifled a shot from the slot past Jones. DeBoer, however, begged to differ and challenged the play asserting that Jay Beagle had interfered with the San Jose netminder.

The play seemed innocent. As Orlov was winding up his shot, Beagle skated from Jones' left and brushed past the goalie as he positioned himself for the screen. Whatever contact there was between Beagle and Jones was minimal. Goalies are usually very vocal when they believe they have been interfered with, but even Jones had no reaction after the goal was scored.

RELATED: Orlov goal in second period waived off following coach's challenge

Yet, after the review Peel ruled that Jones had indeed been interfered with on the play and waived off the goal.

The league released this statement on the play via its Situation Room Blog:

After reviewing all available replays and consulting with NHL Hockey Operations staff, the Referee determined that Washington's Jay Beagle interfered with Jones before the puck crossed the goal line. According to Rule 78.7, "The standard for overturning the call in the event of a ‘GOAL' call on the ice is that the Referee, after reviewing any and all available replays and consulting with the Toronto Video Room, determines that the goal should have been disallowed due to ‘Interference on the Goalkeeper,' as described in Rules 69.1, 69.3 and 69.4."

Therefore the original call is overturned – no goal Washington Capitals.

But was this goaltender interference?

The only contact was a slight brush of the goalie glove which Jones wears on his left hand. The shot went to Jones' right meaning his ability to move or stop the shot was not impaired at all. The sticking point, however, was likely the contact itself.

According to Rule 69.3, "If an attacking player initiates contact with a goalkeeper, incidental or otherwise, while the goalkeeper is in his goal crease, and the goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed."

"To the letter of the law it was a good call, I guess," Trotz said. "I don't totally agree, but because it went against me obviously."

Overhead views of the play show that Beagle did in fact contact Jones in the crease, which by rule is goalie interference. But, clearly a situation such as this was not what was meant by the goalie interference rule or why the coach's challenge was implemented.

"You get bumped like that on 10 plays a game," Braden Holtby said. "I think the ruling was supposed to be put in there for the stuff that the ref can't see that's blatant. I think that's a clean hockey play.

"If it happened to me I wouldn't even think about complaining about it. I hope that's not the standard. I hope that goalies have to still battle a bit for position."

No one could argue this was why the Caps lost. They were outplayed from the opening faceoff, they took three penalties in the game's first 20 minutes and they were without both Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. There's certainly no guarantee that had that goal been allowed, the Caps would have been able to rally.

But there was no guarantee that they would not have either.

If this Peel's decision is a reflection of the standard referees will now hold skaters to on challenges, this also could have much larger implications outside of this one game. If this is how closely the officials are going to follow the letter of the law, expect to see a lot more challenges throughout the NHL.

When asked if he learned something from his first experience with a coach's challenge, Trotz answered, "Yeah, any incidental contact, just call it. That's the standard that seems to be set now."

MORE CAPITALS: Capitals blitzed by Sharks in 5-0 loss

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Almost a quarter into the season, Todd Reirden still does not have his full roster 

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Almost a quarter into the season, Todd Reirden still does not have his full roster 

In his first year as an NHL head coach, Todd Reirden is well aware that all eyes are on him. Stepping in to coach the defending Stanley Cup champions is a favorable position in many ways, but it does mean Reirden will be under more scrutiny than most coaches in their first year.

For a first-year coach already facing pressure to succeed, it does not help that the season has already thrown a number of curve balls in terms of the roster.

“Coaching the defending champions is a unique challenge in itself,” Reirden told NBC Sports Washington in a recent interview, “But I think for the most part that I haven't had much time to spend on that because I've been busy working on different lineups every night.”

With very few departures in the offseason, Washington was able to bring back the vast majority of its Stanley Cup winning team for the 2018-19 season, something that was considered a major strength of the team heading into the new season.

So far, however, we have seen much more roster attrition from the Caps than consistency.

Now 18 games into the season, Reirden has not had his full roster available to him at any point.

Tom Wilson missed the first 16 games of the season due to suspension, Brooks Orpik is currently on long-term injured reserve, Michal Kempny missed the start of the season because of a concussion and missed Wednesday’s game due to an illness, Travis Boyd has played in only five games due to a lower-body injury he suffered in training camp and Braden Holtby was a surprise scratch on Wednesday with an upper-body injury that required the team dress an emergency backup goalie in Winnipeg. Even John Carlson sat out a game with a lower-body injury.

Things may get worse before they get better given Evgeny Kuznetsov left Wedensday’s game early with an upper-body injury, T.J. Oshie appeared dazed after getting slammed to the ice by Josh Morrissey and Holtby is still considered day-to-day.

The rest of the league, however, does not care about the Caps’ suspensions and injuries. Washington does not get extra points in the standings because they have missed so many players and there are no asterisks next to Reirden’s head coaching record.

In the early part of the season, Reirden’s focus has had to shift from bringing the defending champs back to their championship form to simply surviving the team’s current roster attrition while facing questions as to why the team has been so inconsistent all the while.

Reirden has enjoyed the challenge.

“I think it's allowed us to really focus on what gives us the best chance to win, putting guys in different situations, manipulating lineups against other teams and what they have as the strengths in their lineup and how we can combat that,” he said. “So it's been a challenge from that standpoint in terms of moving our lines around and different components. That's made it a little bit more challenging, but that's the part I really enjoy is making those adjustments in house and figuring out how to set up things for success.”

Reirden has certainly not been shy about changing his line combinations or the defensive pairings early in the season as he searched to find the right fit for each spot, each situation. The return of Wilson certainly seems to have made things more clear on the offensive lines, at least in terms of the top-nine.

But while the early suspension and the team’s early injury woes have led to some early struggles and while this certainly is not the start that Reirden would have hoped for in his first season, he is taking a big picture view of it all and stressing the positives.

There’s not much more that this season could throw at the Caps that Reirden and the team has not already had to adjust to.

“It's probably been part of the reason we've had some inconsistency is because of the different changes we've had with different lines and different D-pairs,” Reirden said. “But in the long run, it'll actually help prepare us for adversity that comes to us down the road.”

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Morrissey avoids suspension for Oshie body slam in a decision that makes little sense

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Morrissey avoids suspension for Oshie body slam in a decision that makes little sense

The Department of Player Safety announced Thursday that Winnipeg Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey was fined $8,467.74 for his body slam of T.J. Oshie in Wednesday’s game. It is a punishment that falls well short of the standard the DPS itself set earlier this season.

Late in Wednesday’s game between the Caps and Jets, Oshie skated to the corner of the offensive zone after the puck while locked in a physical battle with Morrissey. Morrissey checked Oshie into the boards, then, as he was falling back, Morrissey slammed Oshie down to the ice. Oshie appeared to be dazed after the play which is troubling given his history of concussions.

There is nothing wrong with the initial hit. Both players were battling for the puck making Oshie eligible to be hit. The problem is after the hit when Morrissey slams him to the ice afterward, which is unnecessary and dangerous.

Oh, c’mon, you may be saying, Morrissey was just finishing his check! That’s not an argument anymore considering the DPS already suspended a player for doing the exact same thing earlier this season when Florida Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson slammed Vancouver Canucks rookie Elias Pettersson to the ice. Matheson was suspended two games for the play.

Matheson’s suspension was a matter of some debate within the hockey community not just because some argued Matheson was finishing his check on a hockey play, but because it was made to look worse by the fact that Pettersson is only 176 pounds, nearly 20 pounds lighter than Matheson. The DPS didn’t buy it and Matheson was suspended.

If you compare the Morrissey and the Matheson hits, they are very similar. Matheson hits Pettersson with a legal check, just as Morrissey did with Oshie. Matheson then slammed Pettersson to the ice after the initial check, just as Morrissey did with Oshie. One can quibble somewhat with the fact that Petterrsson’s skates came off the ice making the throw down more violent, but the two plays are similar enough that, in my opinion, it is fair to compare them and the corresponding punishment. In fact, one could easily argue that the Morrissey hit is worse considering he and Oshie are both listed as 195 pounds. Oshie didn’t go down to the ice because of a size disparity, Morrissey had to physically slam him down.

In addition, Morrissey is considered a repeat offender after getting suspended in the 2018 playoffs for a crosscheck to Minnesota Wild forward Eric Staal. To be fair, being a repeat offender is not supposed to affect the DPS’s decision on whether a play is worthy of a suspension or not, it is only meant to be taken into consideration when determining the length of a suspension.

But the remains that the DPS was presented with two very similar plays within one month of each other and came up with two completely different punishments. That is more than a little head scratching.

The DPS has one of the toughest jobs in hockey. No matter what they do, most people are going to be unhappy with the decisions they make. It’s the nature of the job when it comes to determining supplemental discipline. Having said that, the one thing people should be able to expect from the DPS is consistency. The Morrissey hit on Oshie seemed like a slam-dunk considering a very similar play happened a month before and resulted in a two-game suspension.

But hey, Caps fans can at least take comfort in the fact that Morrissey was issued the maximum fine allowed by the CBA. So there’s that.

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