Jay Beagle makes a heroic, desperation save to keep a thrilling Game 6 alive a little longer. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
The puck-over-glass rule was the star of last night's third period in the Penguins-Capitals Game 6 thriller. And the non-discretionary call very nearly decided the outcome. Isn't it time for the NHL to figure out a new, less punitive strategy for a very minor crime?
I’ve never been a fan of the puck over glass penalty rule. It's always felt as though the punishment dwarfs the crime, especially when compared to other infractions that either get penalized with an identical two minute minor or not at all.
Screaming case in point. In Pittsburgh-Washington Game 6, the Pens take three consecutive minors for illegal clears, are faced with consecutive 5-on-3s, and surrender the inevitable game-tying goal. Fast forward to overtime when Jason Chimera is cross-checked in the offensive zone, which leads directly to a golden 2-on-1 opportunity for Evgeni Malkin and Eric Fehr.
In the puck-over-glass scenarios, the offenders had zero intention of committing an infraction, and their actions did not nullify an immediate scoring opportunity. By contrast, the Capitals would have been eliminated on what appeared to be a non-call against Chimera if not for a strong play by netminder Braden Holtby.
But the referees are given no margin for judgement on pucks-over-glass, the rule being as black and white as the stripes on their sweaters. The whistle is blown as the puck goes out of play, and if there’s any doubt whether a foul has been committed, the four on-ice officials huddle up and decide the appropriate outcome.
With plays such as a trip, hold, cross-check or hook, a referee has a split second to decide whether it’s minor-worthy, and in close playoff games and overtime, they tend to err on the side of caution. And we get it, they're in an unenviable situation.
From my perspective, the fear is rooted in giving one team a perceived massive advantage at a critical time. That trepidation could be mitigated if there were varying degrees of punishment, instead of the daunting two-minute minor.
The truth is, some of these punishments already exist. Teams are penalized to lesser extents for hand-passes, off-sides, playing the puck with a high-stick and icing. Each results in a faceoff that slaps the offending team on the wrist.
So why is it that puck-over-glass is viewed as such a travesty? There is no differentiation between the punishment for it and someone getting slashed just before he’s about to tap one into an open net. In fact, the puck-over-glass discipline is more harsh because it gets called 100 per cent of the time.
The penalty for puck-over-glass becomes even more illogical when the offending team is on the penalty kill. The very last thing a short-handed player wants to do is stop the clock and take a minor. This is the one time when he can fire the puck the length of the ice, kill time off the clock, get his team a needed change and not incur any type of punishment. His primary goal is to ice the puck. Giving his team a second penalty, and putting them into a 5-on-3 situation for what is clearly unintentional is punitive, bordering on inane.
I understand I’m in the minority on this, but I’m not on an island. Sean McIndoe of Down Goes Brown fame (and a contributor to this site) wrote a strong argument for puck-over-glass reform a few years ago.
At the very least, the NHL should put this on its agenda for rules review. Imagine if the Pens had lost the game simply because, like a guy who’d taken too much Viagara, they couldn’t keep it down. It would have been a horrible way to conclude what was an absolutely thrilling hockey game.