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Tim Benz: Pittsburgh involved again as NHL runs into NFL-style replay debates

Tim Benz
StarsPenguinsHockey86463jpg52863
The Penguins' Brian Dumoulin collides with the Stars' Devin Shore in the first period Sunday, March 11, 2018.

Mr. James, meet Mr. Dumoulin.

Mr. Dumoulin, meet Mr. James. Will Mr. Hornqvist and Mr. Malkin be joining us as well?

Pittsburgh was at the epicenter for the NFL’s replay earthquake. Why not have it occur here for the NHL’s as well?

The cry to adjust NFL instant replay exploded during a Steelers game when tight end Jesse James had his touchdown against the Patriots overturned in December.

It did on the ice as well Saturday when Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin had an apparent goal negated for goaltender interference while he was scoring in Toronto.

So not only did Dumoulin’s goal fail to count, he had go to the penalty box. It was the most hotly contested in a string of debates this year about goaltender interference. As Stars forward Jamie Benn tweeted after the play, “2 mins (in the box) for scoring. Huh?”

At least James didn’t get a penalty flag for illegal contact with the ground that he allegedly “didn’t survive.”

“I don’t think anyone really knows what goalie interference is and what isn’t,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan after the 5-2 loss.

Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist added more tequila to the replay cocktail Sunday night when Hornqvist scored against Dallas. That goal was overturned for offside because Malkin’s skate blade was barely off the ice entering the offensive zone well in advance of the goal being scored, and well across the ice.

Jonathan Drouin and P.K. Subban are screaming “karma” at the top of their lungs right now, and Danny Briere is grinning sheepishly.

“At least they got it right,” Hornqvist said after the win.

Therein lies the rub. On the one hand, you’ve got the case for replay — Making sure a goal is scored legally.

On the other, you’ve got the case for pace and spontaneity — Don’t bog down a game by ruining a highlight moment in the name of an inconsequential technicality.

A ball scraping a blade of grass beyond the goal line, or a skate blade being an inch above the ice (all the way across the rink from the puck) both fit that description.

Yet in the case of Dumoulin, they won’t review a play if a whistle was improperly blown, even though the play has to stop to fish out the puck and send the player to the box.

“Even if they call a penalty on the play, that should be challengeable,” Sullivan on Saturday. “That’s just common sense.”

Sullivan is applying common sense, the league is not.

I understand the NHL is trying to protect the health of goalies and the integrity of the crease. But how about the integrity of logic and the health of the game?

Shouldn’t this league want more goals on the board instead of erasing them?

It’s not as simple as “Mongo no like replay! Replay bad!”

For example, after Malkin’s offside call, former NHL player and current Sportsnet analyst Nick Kypreos tweeted: “Cheesiest disallowed goal/offside call of the year. Straddling the line has been in our game forever. How many goals in NHL history would have been disallowed with this video review, 10,000? Please let’s get rid of this #ASAP.”

Unfortunately, saying “we’ve had it wrong for 100 years, so let’s just keep getting it wrong” isn’t a good argument. If the opinion is offside isn’t deemed to be egregious enough to overturn a goal anymore, OK.

Stop reviewing those plays then.

But understand you can’t get rid of the obvious Briere-type offside, without the “cheesy” ones from Hornqvist, Subban and Drouin being subject to review as well. I would rather prevent egregious errors from happening, even if it means some delays in the name of accuracy and consistency.

Much like I’ve said about the James debate, the answer lies in how replay is applied , not the elimination of it.

If those offside calls are “cheesy,” then make the act of challenging more punitive. For instance, Dallas challenged that goal call even though it didn’t have a timeout because such an act results in a penalty if you are wrong, not a loss of a timeout.

Make it both. You can’t challenge without a timeout, AND you get penalized while losing the timeout if you are wrong. Maybe that will restrict replay being used so often.

Replay is here. It’s here to stay. In all sports. The logic of its application is what needs to be fixed.

If it isn’t, I’m sure the next hot button will be pressed somewhere in the 412 area code again.

Tim Benz hosts the Steelers pregame show on WDVE and ESPN Pittsburgh. He is a regular host/contributor on KDKA-TV and 105.9 FM.

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