No-goal ruling costs Blue Jackets in one-goal loss to the Jets

Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Matt Calvert (11) and Winnipeg Jets defensenman Jacob Trouba (8) fight during the first period at Nationwide Arena. 

Russell LaBounty/Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sport

Here’s what it looked like on the replay Monday night at Nationwide Arena:  Matt Calvert is driving to the net, looking for some loose change, trying to bang the rebound into the net.  He bulls his way to the top of the crease, sees the puck, takes a whack at it and misses.

The puck was loose in the paint.  It had already deflected off the body of a Winnipeg Jets defender and was rolling through the legs of Jets goaltender Al Montoya toward the net.  Calvert, meanwhile, shifted to his right after missing the puck in an attempt to avoid Montoya.  A millisecond later, he was hit from behind, creating incidental contact with the goalie.  But by that time, Montoya had already been beaten by the deflection and the puck was crossing the goal line.

What seems obvious on the replay is that Calvert is doing the same thing every willing forward should be doing — NEEDS to be doing — in today’s NHL.  With defenses collapsing around the goaltender, if players aren’t willing to drive to the net and battle for loose pucks in the high-traffic areas, a league starved for offense will only get hungrier.  Calvert had every right to try to get to that loose puck in the paint.  He was just doing his job and doing it well.

In real time, and seemingly from not the best angle, referee Tim Peel apparently saw a collision with Montoya and ruled Calvert had interfered with the goalie’s ability to play his position and rules no goal.  On the replay, with the benefit of several angles and slow motion looks, it seems abundantly clear there is no interference.  It appears to be a good, aggressive hockey play.  Of course, the Blue Jackets lost the game by a goal, amplifying the importance of Peel’s call.

It certainly can’t be easy for an official to process all of the above in real time and make a snap judgment on whether or not the goaltender had an opportunity to play his position without interference.  That isn’t the point here.  The point is that the ruling by Peel was not reviewable.  It’s a judgment call, and the ruling on the ice stands, no matter the visual evidence to the contrary.  

Maybe there’s another point here.  Maybe it’s time to make goalie-interference rulings reviewable.  It’s impossible for any official to process all the body contact around an NHL net these days and consistently make the right call on goalie interference.  Last night’s ruling needed to be reviewed.  Had it been reviewed, there’s a good chance the ruling would have been:  “Upon further review, the contact with the goalie was incidental, and the puck was already rolling into the net.  It’s a good goal.”  

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Speaking of Matt Calvert, the speedy winger has been an impact player since returning to the Blue Jackets lineup a dozen games ago.  He’s forechecking tenaciously, scoring goals, hitting, fighting.  And you could make the case that he’s one of the primary reason the team seems to have developed a more consistent style of play the past few weeks, a style much closer to the identity it had forged during the strong run of success last year.  Columbus coach Todd Richards has certainly taken notice.

“He’s made our team better, not only from a skill, playmaking standpoint, but with character and hard work,” said Richards recently.  “You see one guy go over the boards and blocking shots and standing up for teammates.

“It’s getting himself into the game, but it’s also dragging teammates into the game.  It’s something that doesn’t show up in numbers on the stat sheet, but it’s a real important element that he brings to this team.  And that adds a lot to his value as a player.”

He’s made our team better, not only from a skill, playmaking standpoint, but with character and hard work

-Todd Richards