This ridiculous shootout goal by Patrick Kane from the Chicago Blackhawks victory over the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday raises a very good question: at what point did Niklas Backstrom know he was hopelessly screwed?
But because Kane went about as slow as humanly possible on this shootout attempt and deked about seventy billion times, it also brings up further questions about the rules of the shootout, specifically what the rules say about the puck, and whether those rules need a complete re-write.
Hockey fans often assume that the forward momentum of the shooter is what matters during a shootout attempt, but this is not the case. The shootout is covered in the Official NHL Rules under Rule 24 for penalty shots and 24.2 states, “The puck must be kept in motion towards the opponent’s goal line.” Technically, a player could come to a complete stop on a shootout attempt, as long as the puck continues moving towards the opponent’s goal line.
This is, in fact, what frequently happens on spin-o-rama shootout goals: witness this Mason Raymond goal from last season, for instance, where Raymond throws on the brakes at the top of the crease to spin the puck in on the backhand. Since the rule doesn’t say anything about the player moving continuously, there’s nothing wrong with Raymond coming to a complete stop.
By the strict interpretation of the wording of the rule, however, the puck must continually move forwards at all times during a shootout attempt. Did the puck move backwards at any point during Kane’s attempt? Does it matter? Should it matter?
Players frequently draw the puck backwards during shootout attempts to fake a shot, but are rarely going so slowly that the puck actually stops moving forwards like it appears to during Kane’s attempt. Where the puck does stop moving forwards is during a spin-o-rama goal, as the puck is spun in a circle all the way around a – frequently stopping – player’s body.
Rule 24 actually makes provision for the spin-o-rama, saying “The spin-o-rama type move where the player completes a 360° turn as he approaches the goal, shall be permitted as this involves continuous motion.”
This just further complicates the issue, as it completely contradicts what was previously stated. Suddenly moving “towards the opponent’s goal line” isn’t important, as long as the puck is kept in continuous motion. This, unfortunately, doesn’t make a lick of sense. Apparently, the puck must move forward unless it “involves continuous motion.”
Now Patrick Kane’s goal does not bend/break the rules as flagrantly as controversial shootout goals in the past, such as Martin St. Louis pausing in the middle of a spin-o-rama to stop the puck before roofing it and Daniel Briere coming to a complete stop before walking around Johan Hedberg, but when Kane is right between the hash marks, he does draw the puck back, stopping its forward momentum. Is this petty and nitpicky? Of course. But the rule as written prohibits it, except when it doesn’t.
The NHL obviously wants to set up the shootout so that the puck and player must move generally towards the net, unless they want to do something that looks cool. The NHL is in the entertainment business after all and the shootout is specifically designed to end games so that they fit neatly into a television timeslot and provide neatly packaged highlights for sports shows.
While I don’t like the shootout on the basis of it not being hockey, I understand its purpose and I have no problems whatsoever with Patrick Kane’s goal. In fact, I loved it. It’s a filthy, filthy move that requires super-soft hands and all sorts of cojones to come in that slow on a shootout attempt. I just really wish the rule was written with more clarity. Goals like Patrick Kane’s shouldn’t be disallowed, which means the rule needs a re-write to make it clear that it is allowed and to clarify how much stopping is allowed.
The Briere and St. Louis shootout goals mentioned above show how big the grey area in this rule really is: the rule says the puck must “must be kept in motion towards the opponent’s goal line” but shootout attempt after shootout attempt shows that this rule as written is not enforced. Since this is the case, why is written that way? I can’t recall ever seeing a shootout goal disallowed for stopping the forward motion of a puck and haven’t been able to find an example online. If the rule isn’t enforced, re-write the rule.