Monday, April 18, 2016

Coach's Challenge Give Isles a Big Boost in Game 3 win over Panthers

The New York Islanders were on the verge of getting blown out in their first ever playoff game at the Barclays Center when they got a huge break thanks to the NHL's new coach's challenge rule. Aaron Ekblad's goal in the third period was waved off thanks to video replay that showed Jonathan Huberdeau had entered the zone offsides just moments earlier.

This was about as close as an offsides can get, but Huberdeau later admitted that he thought he was offsides and was waiting for the lineseman to blow the whistle on the play.

"It's offside, so it's not going to count," Huberdeau said. "Of course it's tough because it would have been 3-0 instead of 2-0... we could have won that game and we didn't capitalize on our chances in overtime. "I thought [the linesman] was going to call it on the play and he said it was not so I just played it."

Here's a photo that shows just how close this call was--impossible to detect at the speed of the game and with the naked eye:

The Islanders would later rally to level the game at three in the second period. They went on to win in overtime on Thomas Hickey's first career playoff overtime goal to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series vs. the Atlantic Division champions.

"I thought the turning point was that offside call," Hickey said. "You won't find me saying that too much, I don't enjoy watching those when I'm watching the game but [the referees and linesmen] took their time and they got it right. Our fans rallied and I think there was a life, an energy on the bench we got out of that."

Many people have been critical of the coach's challenge rule during the playoffs. The system has been at the heart of controversy three times. In game two of the Blues-Blackhawks series, Vladamir Tarasenko's goal was wiped out when it was deemed (correctly) that Jori Lehtera was offsides by a smidgen on the play that sprung the goal.

The Blues would have had a goal lead late in the third. Instead they ended up dropping a tough decision to the Blackhawks.

The rallying cry from the anti-coach's challenge set? Why nitpick? Some argue that the offsides rule was written with the naked eye in mind. In other words, if you can't detect a play being offside while watching on the ice, than the infraction is probably not egregious enough to call.

To those folks, we say, would you want your favorite basketball team to lose a game at the buzzer when the opponent hits a three-pointer with his foot on the line? These days they have instant replay to make sure (do we need it would be, theoretically, possible for an NHL linseman to be bought off by a mafia member?). That's a pretty awesome development. The fact that the NHL is following suit and using replay to ensure the integrity of its on-ice product is a good call. Offsides is offsides, whether the lineseman misses the call or--an all-too-common phenomenon these days--didn't make the call because it was too close and he knows the team can always challenge if a goal occurs after the zone entry.

The third controversial offsides that involved a coach's challenge was actually deemed to be legal, and it was equally difficult to call on the ice:

Here, Derick Brassard was deemed to have control of the puck (correctly) when he entered the zone during Saturday's game at Pittsburgh. The call: Good goal. Extra points to the linesman who got it right on the ice. That's three impossibly difficult calls to make on the ice that the coach's challenge has cleaned up (or upheld) thanks to video review.

Help me understand. Why are we complaining about this? Do we really want offsides plays leading to pivotal goals in NHL playoff games? Let's take a minute, look at the replay, and get the call right.