Sunday, February 19, 2017

Latest Coach's Challenge Reversal Leads to More Derision

During the Rangers 2-1 win over the Capitals at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, another close coach's challenge on an offside call drew the ire of fans (big surprise, right?). The Rangers thought they had a power play goal late in the first period when Mika Zibanejad scored into a yawning net (video above), but the play was wisely challenged by Capitals head coach Barry Trotz.

Officials quickly came back to declare the goal no good because Ryan McDonagh was offsides on the play.

They were right.

Here's the iso on the play:

The problem with the optics of the call is that play continued in the Capitals' zone for another :24 after the call should have been made. The Rangers do a great job of winning the wall and twice working the puck back to McDonagh (the culprit) at the right point where he ends up feeding Mats Zuccarello for the primary assist on what would have been Zibanejad's goal.

24 seconds is a heck of a lot of time, and a lot of Rangers' hard work got done during that span (kudos, Blueshirts), so, yeah, I get that it's kind of strange to just pretend it never happened. But the fact of the matter is this: McDonagh failed to keep his skate on the ice and thus allowed his team to enter the zone illegaly. While the Rangers were puck-hounding away, what should have been happening is a neutral-zone face-off.

Trotz and Co. did a heck of a job seeing the missed call and on-ice officials did a good job of using the video to determine the correct call (unlike that horribly botched inconclusive call that came out of Minnesota a week ago).

A lot of pundits, and ones that I highly respect (actually basically everyone according to my latest informal poll), hate the coach's challenge for offsides calls, and I know I'm in the minority on this.

But I do not understand the hatred of the rule. Do we not agree that offsides is pretty much the defining rule in hockey? Do we not agree that a crucial ingredient of any offensive attack is making a legal zone entry, with the puck proceeding all offensive players on the attacking team into the zone? So why is it so bad to nitpick on offsides calls? This isn't pond hockey, people.

Besides, it's not like it happens on every single goal. Coaches get one chance to take a shot at a challenge per game. Sometimes it can take up to five minutes to get the call, but if the alternative is having an offsides play lead to a crucial goal, I'm taking the coach's challenge every time.

The NHL's coach's challenge isn't the culprit here, McDonagh is. If he waits a fraction of a second longer to begin his stride the Rangers have themselves a good goal and a 2-0 lead. But he lazily blew the timing of the play. It cost them the goal and it should have cost them the goal.

It's clear that it's pretty much an impossible call to make on the ice--four Rangers are all crossing the line at once. THAT'S WHY WE HAVE THE REPLAY.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.