The NHL has a new rule this season that says if a player uses his hand in the faceoff circle to assist in winning the draw he will be assessed a two-minute minor penalty. It's been enforced quite a bit in the early stages of this season, but it hadn't yet made an impact like it did on Saturday night.
During overtime of Minnesota's 2-1 win over Nashville it was enforced to the absolute letter of the law, and it was absurd. It also helped play a role in the outcome of the game, with the Wild scoring the winning goal on the ensuing power play.
As Paul Gaustad, Nashville's top pick for defensive zone draws, attempted to win the faceoff against Mikael Granlund, the puck bounced into the air and inadvertently hit his hand while both hands remained on his stick. The referees determined this was a violation of the rule and sent him to the box for a faceoff violation.
Here's a look at the play. Try to find the penalty here if you can.
Here is what the NHL's situation room told Josh Cooper of The Tennessean:
“The referee deemed that rule 76.4 applied because as it reads “Both players facing-off are prohibited from batting the puck with their hand in an attempt to win the face-off.” That rule applied because the puck was batted by Paul Gaustad's left glove off the face off.”
I suppose by the letter of the law that's what happened -- it did appear to hit his glove -- but is that really what the NHL's intent was with this rule? To make that a penalty? Random chance and fluke bounces? It's not like Gaustad removed his hand from his stick and took a clean swipe at the puck.
Gaustad and Nashville coach Barry Trotz were both confused after the game.
"I'm going to get an explanation from the league. For me it was a poor call, a questionable call at a very important time of the game," Trotz said, via The Associated Press. "I mean, come on. I don't agree with that at all."
Said Gaustad: "I don't really want to comment on it too much because I'll probably get fined. The interpretation of the rule, I thought, is intentional glove play. The drop goes up in the air three feet, I'm on my movement, hits the top of my glove without me trying to do it, and I think they probably should explain the rules a little more clear to us."
I don't want to say this was the only reason Nashville lost Saturday because it had six power play opportunities, including a double-minor, and squandered them all. In a one-goal game you just can't let chances like that slip away. But this call also give Minnesota a power play in overtime -- where the man-advantage is of the 4-on-3 variety, creating even more open ice and a higher chance for a goal -- and directly led to the deciding goal.
And that's not right.