Clearing up the Hawks' no-goal vs. Detroit

You might still be fuming mad that the Chicago Blackhawks had a goal taken away from them on Sunday after referee Steve Kozari determined Dustin Byfuglien made contact with Jimmy Howard as Patrick Kane was putting the puck past him early in the second period.

Coincidentally or not, the Hawks fell apart soon after that call and went on to lose the game 5-4. They were leading 2-0 at the time. If they go up 3-0, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say the outcome of the game may have been different.

The NHL rulebook gives very detailed scenarios in regard to goaltender interference. In fact, the book goes on for five and a half pages about incidental and intentional contact with the goalkeeper in and outside of the crease.

Let’s start with where the parties were and how much contact took place. It’s clear from replays that Jimmy Howard was, indeed, in the crease. This is important. We can also safely say that Byfuglien, if he made contact at all, did it incidentally and not intentionally. We know that because a penalty wasn’t called and nine times out of ten the contact does draw an infraction.

The rulebook states, if “an attacking player makes incidental contact with the goalkeeper at the same time a goal is scored, the goal is disallowed.” This applies for goalies that are within their crease. If Howard had been just outside of his crease and incidental contact had been made, the goal would have stood.

At that point, the referee has the discretion to call a penalty, which Kozari did not. Replays show very minimal contact by Byfuglien, if any, and Howard could have won an Oscar later that night with his backward flop, though he probably just lost his balance.

The Hawks had the same call go against them in New York last Tuesday. Ben Eager was deemed in Dwayne Roloson’s way but also was not given a goaltender interference penalty.

Technically, according to the rulebook, the referee may have made the right call. Contact is contact and Kozari believed there was, though replays aren’t completely conclusive. As for the spirit of the rule, it’s meant, obviously, to allow goaltenders to attempt a save un-impeded. Being slightly touched did not impede Howard from making the save. The rulebook does allow for the referee’s judgment to play a part in his decision. Bottom line, Kozari should have put the whistle away.

Still, the loss cannot be put on Kozari’s shoulders. The Hawks were still leading 2-0 and no one could know the onslaught that was to come.