Detroit Red Wings winger Justin Abdelkader helped his team topple the St. Louis Blues in overtime, but he scored the game-winner using a broken stick. The referees on ice called it a goal, but it’s possible the tally could have been overturned were there a coach’s challenge or expanded replay.
The ability for coaches to challenge plays during the game has been talked about for several seasons, but there may be more weight to the argument after Detroit winger Justin Abdelkader and his broken stick helped the Red Wings topple the St. Louis Blues Sunday afternoon.
In overtime, with the Red Wings and Blues tied at one and Detroit on the power play to start the extra frame, the puck got worked around to Marek Zidlicky, who one-timed the puck on goal. Zidlicky’s shot found its way off of Blues goaltender Jake Allen and into the feet of Abdelkader, who was tied up in front of the goal by St. Louis rearguard Alex Pietrangelo.
In Abdelkader’s attempt to swipe the puck into the net, he got his stick caught on Allen’s pads and, as you can see in the video below, his stick actually began to break. Then, with a broken stick, Abdelkader was able to get enough on the puck to knock it home:
While there’s certainly no intent by Abdelkader on the play to do anything mischievous, you can tell by the way he immediately looks to the referee that he knows he got away with one.
According to Rule 10.3 of the NHL rulebook:
“A player without a stick may participate in the game. A player whose stick is broken may participate in the game provided he drops the broken stick. A minor penalty shall be imposed for an infraction of this rule.”
Following the letter of the law, the rule would then mean that Abdelkader, by playing the puck with a broken stick, was not in accordance with Rule 10.3. However, as the play happened so fast and there’s no clear cut reason for review, the game ended and Abdelkader was awarded the OT winner.
While the expansion of video review and the implementation of a coach’s challenge was bandied about at the GM meetings, nothing formal has been slated for next or any upcoming seasons. This is the exact kind of play — a quick, split-second call that is near impossible to make by the on-ice officials — where review would be warranted. The nightmare scenario, as always, is having the Stanley Cup final decided on a blown call.
Abdelkader’s OT winner doesn’t come at as extreme a time, but it still comes in the thick of a very tight playoff race in the Eastern Confernce and, who knows, a single point could be the difference between the Blues taking first place in the Central Division or losing their spot to the Predators or Blackhawks. Whatever comes to pass, Abdelkader’s goal could be the newest piece of evidence that leads to changes in the game.