Bottom Six Minutes: What is goaltender interference?

The Montreal Canadiens lost to the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night, and it will surely shock every member of this community to know that I once again have a bone to pick with the officiating. At least this time I’m bringing a little variety, as I’m looking at the persistent problem of what exactly constitutes goaltender interference in the National Hockey League.

I’m going to show two examples of contested NHL goals, both involving the Canadiens.

For exhibit A, we need only take the clock back to last night. Blake Wheeler scored the game-tying goal while resting his entire weight on Samuel Montembeault, and following a challenge by the Canadiens, it was confirmed as a good goal.

The first thing that needs to be acknowledged is that there definitely was a push by Johnny Kovacevic preceding the contact with Montembeault. The problem I have is in using that to justify the contact, because there was plenty of time between the push and Wheeler sandwiching Montembeault between his body and the post.

The push didn’t make the contact unavoidable, but the contact absolutely impacted Montembeault’s ability to make a save. He’s already turned around to reach for the puck, with plenty of time to get there if he doesn’t have Wheeler sitting on him.

For exhibit B we have to take the clock back to last season, specifically December 28, 2021. Unlike exhibit A, the following goal was disallowed for goaltender interference.

Here, the push not only occurs before the contact, but carries Brendan Gallagher directly into the goaltender as the puck ricochets into the net. Like in exhibit A, the contact definitely impacted the goaltender’s ability to play the puck, but in this case it was ruled that Gallagher was at fault and the contact was avoidable.

Both games hilariously ended as overtime losses for the Canadiens, but what is the difference between these two decisions with respect to goaltender interference?

Well, for starters, one of the scoring players is Brendan Gallagher, and if he even so much as passes gas in the general direction of a goaltender while scoring, NHL officials would consider it tantamount to two-handing said goaltender on the wrist.

Personal grudges and bias aside, the bigger issue is that they genuinely seem to make up the rules as they go on this front. The Habs are far from the only team to experience maddening decisions like this, as consistency across the league is non-existent.

So, at best, their reviews are completely random, and at worst, they appear to be rooted in bias. At the very least, the league needs to eliminate the penalty for a failed challenge, because it’s bad enough to have nonsensical goals count without having to kill a minor penalty right after.

Click the play button below to listen to your full Bottom Six Minutes, also available on your podcast platform of choice. With the short road trip now concluded, we’ll return with another episode after the Canadiens make their return to the Bell Centre on Saturday against the Vegas Golden Knights.

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