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NHL Playoffs News: Oilers advance on McDavid OT winner after Coleman ‘kick’

What is a “distinct kicking motion,” I wonder?

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Edmonton Oilers v Calgary Flames - Game Five
Series clincher.
Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

Thursday night’s late game was an interesting one for many reasons — the Oilers and Flames set a record for fastest four goals in a playoff game (71 seconds), for one. But as a *neutral observer, I had that rare mental experience of viewing a controversial ruling with no strings attached.

*I kind of prefer the Flames, but also kind of want to see McDavid vs. MacKinnon. I definitely wanted the Battle of Alberta to go longer just for entertainment, but not enough to be emotionally invested.

Late in a tie game, Blake Coleman scored a would-be go-ahead goal that could have very well become the game winner to force Game 6.

Instead, the NHL office reviewed the play and canceled the goal because Coleman had used “a distinct kicking motion,” which in this case it’s fair to say is definitely in the eye of the beholder. Complicating factors:

  • Coleman was being driven into the net and had every reason to turn his skate just to try to stop or slow himself from smashing into the crossbar.
  • The puck was headed over the line before Coleman’s skate sent it in faster.
  • That...that qualifies as a kick?!

We Islanders fans have been in this situation multiple times, though not with such high stakes, so the NHL’s curiously aggressive — except when it isn’t — interpretation of “kicking motion” is not new. But it remains maddeningly inconsistent and asinine.

As a neutral observer last night, I fell on the side of thinking the Flames got screwed. I mean, I sort of get the league’s interpretation when seen in the context of other (similarly mind-boggling, see below) rulings and when looking at one specific angle. Looking at the entire scenario, however, it just seems like a nonsensical leap to “distinct kicking motion.” The implied intent of the rule — kicking with skates is dangerous and should not be incentivized — does not apply here, because however you interpret or deduce Coleman’s intent, the motion of his skate could equally be seen as the natural turn to slow/stop one’s self or, yes, even to simply redirect a puck with his skate (which is allowed) without actually “kicking.” A player has the right to try and stop. If he chooses to do so in a place where the puck is, that’s not kicking.

Did Coleman intentionally direct the puck in? Very very probably. Was his skate unnaturally there? No, I don’t think so...there’s a crossover where you might think, “Why was his left skate there anyway?” but his right skate had gotten blocked by the goalie, spinning him in this way (with a defenseman driving him the whole way). There is one angle from the right-wing side that looks like he put his foot there with one sole purpose, although that angle obscures how he got there because Mike Smith is in the way. But the other angles leave it open for other interpretations — and all of this is in slow motion, which is inherently deceptive.

Going over the rulebook doesn’t help much because, as Darryl Sutter referenced in his post-game, it pretty much comes down to how you define “kicking motion.” And the NHL has yet to truly do that.

Anyway, while this will burn Flames fans for years, for me I’m thankful that they were on their way to losing that series one way or another. They simply did not have it.

Other news:

  • Don’t take my word for it: Our friendly Flames blog writes (well, one of them does) that the Flames very clearly did not deserve to win this series. [Matchsticks & Gasoline]
  • In the early game last night, the Hurricanes won to move one win away from the conference final. [NHL] Gerard Gallant isn’t mad, he’s just “disappointed.” [NHL]
  • The Blues will try to force a Game 7 when they host the Avalanche tonight. Their crazy Game 5 comeback and OT win reminded some of what is known as the “Monday Night Miracle” vs. Calgary in 1986. [Athletic]
  • After wasting Nathan MacKinnon’s hat trick, five reasons the Avalanche should be concerned (that’s a stretch) and five reasons they’ve got nothing to worry about. [Athletic]
  • Didn’t know this was even a question (must be a gambling interest), but the Blues confirmed Torey Krug is still unavailable. [TSN]
  • Great story on Darryl Sutter’s son Christopher, how he likes to dance for fans and go over games with his dad, and his journey from life-threatening infant complications to living and “maxing” effort living with down syndrome. [Sportsnet]
  • Hockey Canada and the CHL have reached a settlement with a woman who said multiple players on the 2017-18 WJC team sexually assaulted her. [TSN] The NHL says it will investigate the claims as it relates to any accused players who are in the NHL. [NHL]
  • Mike Smith is a fascinating goalie — not so much a throwback as an unpredictable wild card who can do great things and also allow goals from a field goal away. [ESPN]
  • Evander Kane is earning another big paycheck. Will the Oilers give it to him? [Sportsnet]
  • With all their success, this is the first time the Lightning under John Cooper have swept another team. So they have to balance the whole rust vs. rest thing. [Sportsnet]