Just over 3 minutes into the third period of last night's game at the Los Angeles Kings, Daniel Sedin(notes) continued a furious Vancouver Canucks rally with a goal to cut the deficit to 4-3. Or at least that's how it was ruled on the ice by the officials, despite the puck deflecting off Sedin's skate past goalie Jonathan Quick(notes).
What came next is familiar to any NHL fan: The momentum draining, patience-testing process of video review from the "War Room" in Toronto, whose aftermath is awash in soul-crushing disappointment and inevitable outcries of inequity.
Upon review, it was determined that the puck was propelled into the net by a kicking motion. This was not a deflection. The direction the puck was moving, and the force of the skate, were the determining factors in concluding
Did the NHL get the call right? Do Canucks fans screaming "conspiracy!" this morning have a gripe? And is this the moment in which the hockey world begins to wonder in unison if the whole "puck off the skate" illegalities are more trouble than they're worth?
1. Did Sedin and the Canucks get jobbed?
Totally. The only reason many felt it was a borderline call when it went to replay is because we know how the War Room treats these situations. By the letter of the law, it's legal. From the NHL Rulebook, as a refresher:
49.2 Goals - Kicking the puck shall be permitted in all zones. A goal cannot be scored by an attacking player who uses a distinct kicking motion to propel the puck into the net. A goal cannot be scored by an attacking player who kicks a puck that deflects into the net off any player, goalkeeper or official.
A puck that deflects into the net off an attacking player's skate who does not use a distinct kicking motion is a legitimate goal. A puck that is directed into the net by an attacking player's skate shall be a legitimate goal as long as no distinct kicking motion is evident.
OK then. Meanwhile, Murphy says this on CBC:
"It had to be propelled some way. Not with a distinct kicking motion, but with a kicking motion, that made it move back the other way. It wasn't a deflection. It wasn't a redirect. It was a kick. That's the decision we came up with."
Did he believe Sedin saw the puck and intentionally kicked it in?
"We felt that wasn't the case here. That he knew what he was doing," said Murphy, adding that he felt Sedin twisted his toe and that he knew were the puck was.
Now, we can all agree that Sedin knew where the puck was going. We can all agree that his leg was out in the crease, and the puck went off that skate. But everything else is speculative: He could have been trying to stop before crashing into the goal. He could have been jostling for position with the defender on his back.
Send as many DVDs to the teams as you want, Murph: If there was an intent to kick here, the replays don't support it enough to overturn the goal, in our opinion.
2. Mike Murphy is a Kings Sleeper Agent
One of the outcries this morning from Canucks fans is about Murphy himself -- as you may have noticed in the video at the top of the post, which labels him as "VP of Hockey Operations/Former LA King Player and Coach."
The grand conspiracy continued with the discovering of a smoking gun last night by some Canucks fans: An interview Murphy did with the Kings' Web site that shows the depths of his devotion to the LA franchise:
LAKings.com: You were with the Kings from early on in the team's existence - how have you seen the team change in the time since then?
Murphy: Well I have seen some obvious changes with the colors of the uniforms and the logo and the different arena where they play. What has not changed is the great group of solid hockey fans in Southern California that support and love the Kings, even with the changes. I think it would be so neat to see the Kings succeed and win a Stanley Cup because it would do just a tremendous amount for the Southern California market and the Kings franchise. They have been hard working and very close in a number of years, so that would be nice to see.
OMG! Clearly the placement of Mike Murphy in a position of power in 2010 is the culmination of decades of Stonecutters-like conspiracy to have him waive off a goal in Game 3 of the first round!
Until you realize how the War Room, you know, actually works. From Philly.com from earlier this season:
It is a collegial process. The men are assigned to watch specific games but they all get involved in the review of a disputed goal, however briefly. This night, Tim Campbell, John Sedgwick and former NHL players Kris King and Kay Whitmore all join the conversation. Replays are shown of Rosehill being launched across the crease and attempting to bunt the puck into the net. The question: Does it hit his hand or the shaft of the stick?
Opinions are exchanged with the playing of each replay. The overhead camera often is the most telling, but maybe not this time. They slow it down, try to isolate the actions as best they can. They have a good angle, but it is still close. Pretty quickly, though, there is a consensus. Everyone in the room has spoken.
Consensus, huh? So is everyone out to get the Canucks? Has Murphy cloned them with alien pods, slowly assimilating the NHL brain trust until everyone is a Kings sympathizer? (Shanahan, cocking shotgun: "You'll never take me alive, Murphy!")
3. Finally ... is it time to ease up on the kicked-in goals?
Moments of great controversy in the NHL can sometimes create clarity. The Mike Richards(notes) and Matt Cooke(notes) hits led to the blindside ban, for example. Last night saw a wave of logic crash down around fans and media who watched the game, witnessed the replay and wondered where the "pendulum motion" that portends an illegal kick was for Sedin?
Witness TSN's Bob McKenzie and his Twitter soliloquy last night:
"My personal opinion is the Vancouver no goal should have been a goal, but I knew right away it was going to be disallowed. Here's why:
"The NHL guys, Mike Murphy I think is usually the "kicking" expert, are fixated on whether there is forward motion with the leg or skate...
"As soon as I saw Sedin initially re-position his leg towards the puck I suspected it would be disallowed. But I think that motion...
"Was disrupted by King dman and it became more of a redirect with outside of blade than a kicking motion. But NHL will say key is ‘propel.'
"I am firmly convinced any puck off a skate should count so long as the skate blade remains on the ice. That addresses safety issue.
"Point is these kicked in reviews r way too complex. They try to cut it too fine to the point people don't get it. And that is a big problem."
He's not alone, and seeing the preposterous interpretation of the Sedin no-goal reinforces that. At one point, no goals allowed off skates. Now the rules allow for some, not all. If there's no safety issue, shouldn't a goal like Sedin's count? Playing the puck with your skate is as much a hockey skill as any; hell, we allow pucks directed in off the chest but not off the skate?
In summary: It was a goal, there is no conspiracy, and we'd be fine with a more liberal interpretation of "kicked-in" goals.
Oh, and while all of this is good for debate, it doesn't obscure the fact that the Canucks lost that game because their penalty killing was ass and Roberto Luongo(notes) remembered he was in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Gold medal game was 50 days ago. Felt like a decade ago watching Loo get the hook last night.