This week SB Nation’s theme is: What If?, and with still no hockey and what would have been hockey playoffs, I decided to revisit Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, even though it is a painful game to look back on.
Many fans accredit the Rangers loss to the Kings, to a series of bad calls, particularly the two inconsistent goalie interference calls in Game 2 of the series. At the time, goalie interference was not reviewable by video through a challenge and was called on the ice by the officials. This begs the question, what if both goalie interference calls were part of video review? Would it have affected the outcome of the game, as well as, the rest of the series?
To refresh everyone, the first goalie interference call came at 7:07 during the second-period. Rangers’ player Benoit Pouliot was pushed into the net and in trying to avoid goalie Jonathan Quick, the two collided. Although it was unintentional, Quick’s mask was knocked off in the collision and Pouliot received a minor penalty for goalie interference. Fast forward to the next period, goalie interference resulted in a different outcome.
Only a minute and fifty-six seconds into the third-period, Kings’ forward Dwight King clearly makes contact with Henrik Lundqvist. King was fighting with captain Ryan McDonagh to get the position in front of Lundqvist. This led to King getting tangled up with and falling on the goalie’s right leg in the net just before deflecting Matt Greene’s shot.
Referee Dan O’Halloran decided on the ice that the goal was good, stating that the puck passed Lundqvist before King’s inference. In re-watching the play years later, Lundqvist is seen immediately pointing at O’Halloran and slamming his fists down angrily on the ice. After the game, Lundqvist expressed his frustration with the call, to the media.
“I don’t expect a penalty on the play, but they need to blow the whistle. A goalie can’t move when you have a guy like that on top of you. It’s such an important play of the game, and I don’t buy the explanation […] I’m extremely disappointed on the call — or non-call. You’ve got to be consistent. In the second period, we get called for a penalty and the puck isn’t even there. They score a goal and I can’t even move. It’s extremely frustrating. After that, it’s a different game.” (Scouting the Refs)
For the referee to make that call, he would have had to have seen McDonagh push King into Lundqvist or for the puck to have passed Lundqvist before any contact was made. The goal made the score 4-3, giving the Kings the momentum they needed to come back, with Martin Gaborik tying it up and forcing the game into overtime. It was during double overtime that Dustin Brown scored and the Kings won Game 2 of the series. Lundqvist faced 44 shots on goal that night and allowed five goals, and Quick stopped 34 of the 38 shots faced.
Through Game 1 and 2, Lundqvist had a -1.25 GSAx and Quick had a -0.21 GSAx per Evolving Hockey, so both goalies performed close to their expected outcome. The good goal for Lundqvist in which King interfered skews the stats a bit, and it is worth keeping in mind for the sake of “what if” the call had been reversed.
If video review, which was used to see if goals were good in other situations, had been extended to goalie interference prior to that season, there could have been two different calls on the ice.
The 2013-2014 NHL Rule Book states, “In all cases in which an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, whether or not the goalkeeper is inside or outside the goal crease, and whether or not a goal is scored, the attacking player will receive a penalty (minor or major, as the Referee deems appropriate). In all cases where the infraction being imposed is to the attacking player for hindering the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely in his goal crease, the penalty to be assessed is for goalkeeper interference.”
According to this rule and upon video review, Pouliot, who did not intentionally or deliberately make contact with Quick, should not have received a penalty since he was pushed into the goalie by another Kings’ player. If Pouliot did not receive a minor penalty, the Rangers would have been on a power-play. Should the referees have still deemed the play goalie interference, despite the puck not being near the crease, then game play would have resumed in the way it did with the Rangers’ penalty being negated, so to speak, by a Kings penalty and both teams scoring power-play goals after.
If the referees could of looked at Greene’s goal in the third-period, they would see McDonagh and King’s confrontation on the right side of the net, just outside of the crease. Then King moves to the left, entering the crease and is right on top of Lundqvist’s right leg. As is also stated in the 2013-2014 NHL Rule Book, “Goals should be disallowed only if: (1) an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal.” It is clear that King makes contact with Lundqvist before the puck is even hit off of Greene’s stick from camera angles that show the ice in it’s entirety. Being able to review the play on a video where it could have been slowed down and looked at from different vantage points, may have made it evident to the officials that the call should have been no goal.
The Blueshirts went home, down two games, after losing two games where they had the lead. After the complete five game series, Lundqvist allowed 15 goals and finished with a 1.77 GSAx in all situations. Quick ended the series allowing 10 goals on 146 shots and a 5.03 GSAx. The Los Angeles Kings had a strong expected goals edge at 5v5 of 58.60 percent to 41.40 vs. the Rangers, won the possession battle 56.62% to 43.38%, and dominated the shot on goal share 60.82% to 39.18% according to Natural Stat Trick.
The Kings were a dynamic offensive team, they were a bigger team, and although they did outplay the Rangers in the end, it was a closer series than was expected that saw three games require overtime including double overtime in Game 2 and Game 5. If video review covered goalie interference at the time of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, both Game 2 calls would have most likely been different. It is hard to say that the Rangers would have went on to win the series had there been no bad calls and video reviews. Nevertheless, fans cannot rule out the possibility of a more favorable outcome either, that could have ended with a parade up the Canyon of Heroes.