69.4 Contact Outside the Goal Crease - If an attacking player initiates any contact with a goalkeeper, other than incidental contact, while the goalkeeper is outside his goal crease, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.
A goalkeeper is not “fair game” just because he is outside the goal crease. The appropriate penalty should be assessed in every case where an attacking player makes unnecessary contact with the goalkeeper. However, incidental contact will be permitted when the goalkeeper is in the act of playing the puck outside his goal crease provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such unnecessary contact.
When a goalkeeper has played the puck outside of his crease and is then prevented from returning to his crease area due to the deliberate actions of an attacking player, such player may be penalized for goalkeeper interference. Similarly, the goalkeeper may be penalized, if by his actions outside of his crease he deliberately interferes with an attacking player who is attempting to play the puck or an opponent.
Pay particular attention to the bold and italicized section of that rule. Because that is exactly what happened late in the third period Saturday in the T-birds 3-2 shootout loss to Everett. Austin Lotz, the Silvertips goalie, initiated the contact with Seattle's Justin Hickman. Lotz hesitated to play the puck that went behind the Everett goal and when he realized it would be Hickman who would get to the loose puck first, he jumped into Hickman's path. He didn't make any attempt to play the puck. Hickman's action is to get the puck and Lotz interferes with him, not the other way around. Yet Lotz is rewarded for his action, which in my opinion included a whole bunch of embellishment, and Hickman is penalized for his. The result is an Everett power play that allows them to score the tying goal. When a pedestrian jumps into the path of an oncoming train do you blame the engineer in the locomotive for the pedestrian's bad decision?
At the very least, Lotz should have been penalized as well as Hickman. But I don't understand why Hickman gets a penalty for doing what any attacking player would do in that decision; chase down a loose puck with a chance to set up a scoring play. The bad decision made in this instance was made by Lotz. Goaltenders get a lot of protection by the nature of their vulnerable position but they shouldn't be afforded that benefit of the doubt when they put themselves in harms way.
The T-birds were in control of the game late and that play decided the outcome. Too many times this season calls such as that are deciding games. That's an extra point Seattle had in their back pocket, taken away. They can't get it back and meanwhile Everett gets two points I don't think they rightly deserved. The fate of a team's season can be turned on a call such as that.
Meanwhile Seattle's offensive woes continue. Puck luck is not on their side either as once again they rang a shot off the post, just as they did the night before against Spokane. I count 12 posts or crossbars hit by Seattle in their last eight games. Just this past weekend alone in two games the T-birds were credited with 69 shots on goal but lit the lamp just three times. While they were better Saturday at getting traffic in front of the Everett goal, I still don't think they did it enough. They have to be more conscious of that part of their game.
They were better at getting shots to the net as opposed to hesitating or passing up a shot in favor of an extra pass. That was key to their power play goal in the second period as Jerett Smith did a good job of firing a puck into traffic. As a result Keegan Kolesar was able to bang in a rebound.
Evan Wardley was back on the ice after serving his second lengthy suspension of the season. Wardley played a very good game but he did take one silly, after the whistle penalty in the third period. When your team is up by a goal, trying to snap a losing streak, those are plays you must avoid at all costs. The T-birds killed off that penalty but Wardley has to play smarter. He has tremendous value to this team but that values is severely diminished if he's up in the stands watching the game in street clothes because he's been suspended.
Is Seattle feeling the affects of Mathew Barzal's absence from the lineup? You bet they are. Injuries though, are part of the game and Seattle knows Barzal is going to be out for an extended period and they have to step up their game. I still believe that collectively, the T-birds have enough talent to fill much of that void. It won't be one player but four or five of the young guys can step up. We've seen some of that from Calvin Spencer and the aforementioned Kolesar. Alex True's improvement is five fold since the start of the season.
But the one player Seattle needs to get going is Austrian Import Florian Baltram. Let's remember, like True, Baltram is just 17 years old and playing in North America for the first time. Back in Austria Baltram was one of the top scorers in his age group, often playing with older players. One of the problems is Baltram just isn't getting chances to shoot the puck. I think he is making such a concerted effort to take care of the defensive zone first, he's not thinking offense. I'd like to see him start taking the puck to the net and getting some shots on goal. Once he gets that first WHL goal, hopefully it relaxes him.
My T-birds three stars this weekend:
Third Star: Scott Eansor. Eansor is doing terrific work filling in for Barzal by centering Seattle's top line. He'll never do less then play a 200 foot game. He won the vast majority of his faceoffs this weekend, in particular versus Everett. His blue line to blue line rush set up Hickman for the go ahead goal early in the third period Saturday. For the second straight game against Everett he was doing a superb job of making Nikita Sherbak ineffective, until Sherbak left the game with injury.
Second Star: Keegan Kolesar. When Central Scouting finally put Kolesar on the watch list for next spring's NHL Draft, everyone took notice as he went from unrated to a B prospect. Apparently Kolesar took notice too. I get the feeling he thinks that rating is too low and he's out to prove he should be rated higher. He played two solid games. He plays a smart, physically disciplined game and is so strong at just 17 years old he's hard to move off the puck, whether in front of the net or along the boards. Maybe Seattle has to make enough space for him on that mural on the ShoWare Center concourse? Is their room to squeeze his image on there between Gropp, Bear and Barzal?
First Star: Goalie Taran Kozun deserves a better fate. He has allowed just two goals against in each of his last four starts yet hasn't earned a win because Seattle's offense isn't supporting him with enough goals at the other end. Despite going 0-3-0-1 over that span he's lowered his GAA to a league best 2.32. That's right, he has the best GAA average in the league after this weekend's two games. Meanwhile, he has the the 4th best save percentage. The way he handles the puck behind the net, he might be one of the top defensemen too!