For those of you who missed it, there was a little controversy in last night's Ducks-Flames game. The Ducks emerged with a 4-2 victory, but definitely benefited from a lengthy review that determined an apparent game tying goal was, in fact, not a goal. Flames fans are incensed about the call, some calling Getzlaf a cheater and some saying this play cost the Flames a shot at the post season. You can find a clip of the TSN between period analysis of the play here. After the jump you'll find my argument for why Getzlaf is getting a bum rap.
Let me start by killing a little bit of suspense. This post has nothing to say about whether or not last night's play resulted in a goal. Honestly, I don't know. Moreover, as a Ducks fan I've been on the wrong end of enough calls to not care. The purpose of this post is to discuss the merit, or lack thereof, of Getzlaf's actions during the play, since people seem to be convinced he was doing something unethical.
First, I'd be lying if I said I had read the NHL rulebook cover to cover. For those of you interested, this is the NHL rulebook. However, I did read the rules on handling the puck, rule 67, as well as ones involving the duties of the referees, and scoring goals. I won't bore you with the whole list. In my search, I couldn't find any penalty for what a player does with the puck after the whistle. In other words, people can get mad at Getzlaf for reaching after that puck all they want, but once the whistle blows, I don't see any reason why he can't put his hand on the puck and carry it out of the crease.
Now, does his hand go for the puck after the whistle blows. I'm not sure. The replays I've seen didn't have the on ice audio. What I do know is that when the ref shows up into the frame, he has his whistle to his lips. If the referee has the intent to blow before Getzlaf touches the puck. It doesn't matter what he does with it; the play is over. At that point, the video review team takes over and it's out of everyone's hands. I'm sure by now someone is thinking "Yeah, but if he grabbed it before the ref blows it dead that's a penalty shot." I can agree with that assessment, although I think that that level of violation, which, as Arthur recently reminded someone on the gameday thread happened frequently in the Detroit-Pittsburgh final, is worth the level of animosity Getzlaf has received on some comment boards.
Finally, if TSN had this view of the play, I doubt Aaron Ward would have been so bold. Although, everyone would have realized that Getzlaf must be a magician to have handled this puck.
If you watch the first 5 seconds closely, you'll see the puck bounce up, hit the crossbar, fall onto Emery's blocker arm, and then fall down right in front of him. The rest of the video features Stajan discussing the play and then a slow motion that supposedly confirms that Getzlaf grabbed the puck. The problem is that there's no way Getzlaf could have grabbed the puck based on where it landed after it hit Emery's arm. McMillan definitely pulled it out from underneath the netminder afterwards, but again, the play was dead.
Personally, I do think Getzlaf was reaching for the puck. I think any player who saw a puck floating towards the goal line would try to swipe at it to get it out. If there was a player who wouldn't, nobody would want him on their team. Getzlaf could have been thinking anything when he was falling and reaching for Emery. We can speculate all we want but we don't know. What I do know, based on this video, is that there's no way Getzlaf reached through Emery and grabbed that puck.
Whether or not the puck crossed the line, I can't tell you. I still haven't seen definitive proof of it crossing the line. Then again, I'm a Ducks fan. Getzlaf did everything he could to keep the puck from going over the line. Every player does that. There is no context in which it could be interpreted as cheating. A penalty, maybe, but cheating is usually a premeditated act with malicious intent, not a reactionary violation of the rules. It's not like he kneed a guy in anger right before the final buzzer. Getzlaf had a reaction to a play that was in front of him. Almost every player in the league would have reacted in the exact same way. Does that make it right? I'm not sure. Crucifying Getzlaf for this is like getting mad at a guy who puts his stick between another player's skates but doesn't actually trip him. Maybe Getzlaf wanted to do something like move the puck, but he didn't. He could not have, unless he does really know magic, and the passes he makes sometimes has got me wondering. Sorry, Getzlaf didn't do anything wrong. Flames fans are going to have to blame the review judges for this one.