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Chaos in the crease

by Brian Duff
C.R.E.A.S.E. -- Chaos Results Every time A Skate Enters.

Hard to disagree with an acronym like that, isn't it?

But what would you expect in a game where the most basic plan of attack from all players and coaches involves attacking the blue ice, getting pucks to the net and causing havoc for the goalie?

With every play under the microscope at this time of the year, it's hard not to wonder if there are better ways to ensure the right call is made when it comes to goaltender interference, and pucks being directed into the goal by skates.

Personally, when it comes to interference, I can't help but think video review might be the way to go, but maybe that's because I'm overly sensitive to a goaltender's need for space so he can do his job.

I think most would agree there is very little wrong with the rules as currently written. The problem is how fast things happen, how often referees don't get a clean look at the situation, and how hard it is to call these incidents consistently and correctly.

Which is why I keep coming back to video review.

My colleagues at the NHL Network, Bob Errey and Mike Johnson, not surprisingly, disagree.

"Goalie interference is something that should be decided by those on the ice," Johnson says. "The referees are the only ones who can feel how these situations develop. They are closest to the action, they hear and see and feel the tension involved in every battle. Being in those areas allows them to sense where plays are headed and give them a better idea who's causing the problems in and around the time of the play in question."

Errey is a little more open to change in one sense.

"Maybe you can expand the jurisdiction of the linesmen. Allow them to be a part of the process in a group gathering to get the call right."

But the two-time Stanley Cup winner is quick to point out, as we all do, where do you draw the line when it comes to expanding the roles of others, be it linesmen or those in the video room in Toronto? If you're asking others to help in one situation -- namely goals or non-goals -- what about penalties, etc.?

Errey and Johnson agree and accept that the beauty of sports is that it will always, or should always, have that element of human error. It comes with the territory.

But when it comes to pucks going in off a skate, and whether there was a propelling motion or not, now we get a difference of opinion.

To kick or not to kick may be a better way to phrase the question.

Johnson (would it be wrong to label him as the more sensitive of the two?) is concerned about goaltender safety if you were to ever allow a distinct kicking motion in and around the crease.

"Just look at the damage skates are causing, P.K. Subban on Jordan Staal being the latest example," he said.

Not to mention what happened to Cam Ward earlier this year after a goalmouth incident with Rick Nash.

Errey thinks a double standard currently is in play.

"As it stands right now, you can kick the puck anywhere on the ice, just not into the goal," he said. "So if I'm in the corner, in a scrum, and there's a defender on the ice, I can still try to kick the puck around him to get it into a better spot for me or my teammate. No one seems to care about that. Same thing in the crease. I may not be able to kick it into the net, but I can kick it from one side of the crease to the other, or just dig it out with my skate, while the goalie is sprawled out trying to cover it. And as long as I find a way to get it to my stick or to that of a teammate, it's all good.

"Where is the concern for player safety in those situations?"

He does have a point.

And so it continues.

The debates over two types of plays that are in the "On The Fly" highlight reels pretty much every night.

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