So I’m watching the end of the Columbus-Calgary tilt Friday night and with the Blue Jackets up by a goal and time dwindling to its last seconds, the Flames are threatening in deep.
Jarome Iginla, the man you want nowhere near the puck if you are a Columbus fan, is near the puck. That’s when one of the best shutdown players in recent years, Sammy Pahlsson, takes matters into his own hands and hauls Iggy down behind the net.
Naturally, Pahlsson is whistled for a penalty. And while I can’t get inside the Swedish center’s head, I have to assume he didn’t care one bit.
Because by the time a Columbus player touched the puck (it squirted into an open corner) to touch off the penalty whistle, there was only three seconds left on the clock and the major Iginla scoring opportunity had already been snuffed out.
Ho ho, I chuckled to myself. There’s a savvy vet for ya.
After Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf inexplicably skated into the post-whistle scrum, the Flames were even denied a shot at winning, since the faceoff was now outside the Jackets’ zone (as a sidebar, remember when people were asking the question “Crosby, Ovie or Phaneuf, who would you take?” Seems like a long time ago now).
And while I couldn’t help but be impressed with Pahlsson’s chicanery, it did get me thinking of a new rule for the NHL, something akin to football’s pass interference standard. In the NFL, a pass interference penalty in the end zone puts the ball on the one-yard line. I think hockey needs a similar deterrent.
For Pahlsson, that was the best penalty he could ever take, even without Phaneuf’s brain cramp. A set faceoff with three seconds left instead of Iginla with the puck behind the net and everyone scrambling? Yes, please.
But for Calgary, it was a brutal fate – pre-lockout hockey, if you will. So instead of a two-minute minor, I say the Flames should have been granted a penalty shot.
That’s my new rule: If a team is up by a goal with 30 seconds or less left in regulation and commits a penalty that directly impedes a scoring chance (so, high-sticking or slashing away from the puck wouldn’t count), a penalty shot is awarded to the opponent.
How’s that for excitement?
The only fly in the ointment I can think of here is the delay-of-game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass. Of course, when the NHL instituted that rule after the lockout, no quarter was given, even if the player missed the glass by a millimeter. So if it’s good enough for regular penalties, no matter how quickly a player has to react and toss that puck in an attempt to alleviate pressure and conserve a lead, we must include it in the last-second scenario.
Some may say a penalty shot is a lousy way to decide the end of a game, to which I would counter, then don’t commit the penalty. Plus, imagine how cheated the Flames felt after that loss. Justice can be swift, if we permit it.
Anyone else in Chicago terrified by the Hawks and goalie Cristobal Huet blowing a 5-1 lead in the third period to Minnesota Saturday, then losing to the Wild in a shootout? You know, because the Blackhawks are preparing for a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup with a 34-year-old starting goaltender who has never won a playoff round in his NHL career? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Monday and Wednesday, his column – The Straight Edge – every Friday, and his prospect feature, The Hot List appears Tuesdays.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.