Delay of Game Penalty needs to Change
The Philadelphia Flyers didn’t have much luck on Saturday afternoon.
Coming into their mid-day meeting with the Boston Bruins, the team possessed a seven-game winning streak, lone ownership of first place, and a confident goaltender that had won six consecutive starts.
Following a 6-0 beating, the team no longer had any of those things.
As if that wasn’t enough, the injury depleted Flyers also lost another player when Sean Couturier was hit in the side of the head with a shot prior to the end of the first period.
While the team had to deal with several unfortunate circumstances on Saturday, there was a minor occurrence that brought about a flaw in the rulebook concerning the delay of game penalty.
With the Bruins already up 3-0, Scott Hartnell took a tripping penalty with 4:38 left in the first period. The Flyers won the ensuing faceoff in their defensive zone when Max Talbot pulled the puck back to Braydon Coburn.
Coburn immediately fired the puck down ice, intending to dump it into the Boston defensive zone. Unfortunately for him, he put too much air under the clear and the puck never settled in the zone, instead hitting the netting behind the Boston goal.
Since the puck never landed in play and was cleared from the Flyers defensive zone, the referees gave Coburn a two-minute minor for delay of game.
Boston ultimately scored in the dwindling seconds of the 5-on-3 power play and took a 4-0 lead into the second period.
Ultimately, the goal is not the issue. The issue is that, while the referees did the right thing by calling Coburn for the penalty, it seems irrational for that circumstance to fall under the umbrella of the delay of game ruling.
Delay of game is found in the rulebook as Rule 63. Under subsection 63.2, there are several criteria listed in order to define what a delay of game penalty is.
The first two circumstances describe instances where a player or goaltender deliberately does something like covers up the puck to stop the game or shoots the puck out of play during a stoppage.
Both instances specifically say the word deliberately, insinuating that it is up to the referee’s discretion to determine if the act was committed on purpose.
The third paragraph of Rule 63.2 addresses when a player shoots the puck out of play while in the defensive zone. The rule only specifies that if the puck is shot over glass while the player is in the defensive zone, then a penalty be assessed.
In the very next paragraph, the rule states that when players deliberately knock the net out of position then they will be called for delay of game. Again, the word deliberately is written into the rule.
The word deliberately, insinuating that an action was intentionally committed, is used several times through out Rule 63.2. One of the few times it isn’t used is when in reference to a player shooting the puck out of play from the defensive zone.
In an instance like Coburn’s, its clear that the defender had no intention of shooting the puck out of play. He was trying to clear the puck into the opposing team’s zone as is standard on a penalty kill.
This was only made more obvious by the fact that it hit the netting behind the opposing team’s net 200 feet away, instead of the netting 15 feet to his left.
He clearly didn’t try to put the puck of play.
The spirit of the rule developed from the pre-lockout practice of popping pucks out of play when the opposing team was applying heavy pressure in the offensive zone and on the verge of scoring.
In order to stop this, the league imposed the third paragraph in Rule 63.2. While the rule makes sense, the way that it is worded is flawed. It was clear that Coburn did not deliberately try to put the puck out of play.
The league should consider revising the rule so that instances where players fire the puck the length of the ice and hit the netting behind the goal is no longer covered under the ruling.
It doesn’t make sense to penalize a player for delay of the game when he really just lacked accuracy.