There’s a certain level of gamesmanship that goes on from game to game each night in the NHL. With that in mind, there’s also a host of unwritten rules that players shouldn’t break or at least lines they’re not supposed to cross but will do it to gain an edge. In the case of the San Jose Sharks, Jimmy Howard is having a bit of an issue with how they’re crashing his crease.
No, they’re not running him or being physical with him but they’re trying something a bit more psychological. No they’re not taunting him or chirping him but they’re snowing him instead.
Through the first two games of the series Howard has eaten shaved ice on four different occasions and they’re not taking too kindly to it, Nicklas Lidstrom in particular.
“We mentioned it several times to them,” he said after Sunday’s loss. “I don’t know why they keep allowing them to do it. We keep telling the refs. It’s up to the refs. They could stop it right away by calling it and it’s pretty obvious that they’re trying to do it. It’s really easy for the refs to do something about that.”
Respected veteran captain being vocal about something that could be called a penalty? Sounds like a different kind of gamesmanship to me. If you’re wondering if snowing the goaltender is indeed a penalty, it is. Former referee Kerry Fraser clarified that for TSN that doing that to a goalie on purpose is definitely against the rules and he would approach the situation differently.
As a referee, I wanted players to STOP before running into the goalie. The method and purpose here, however, is blatantly obvious. Action must be taken by the referees. Here’s how I would have handled the situation.
The second time it happened I would have approached the San Jose bench and had a direct conversation with coach Todd McLellan. Todd is a very intelligent coach and an excellent guy to deal with. I would have said, “Todd, we have a pattern here that you and I need to address. The next Shark player that stops hard for the purpose of deliberately throwing snow in Jimmy Howard’s face will receive an unsportsmanlike minor penalty! Can I count on you to take care of this please before I have to?”
The question here is whether or not officials will take a stand on things. We’ve seen our fair share of odd calls made throughout the playoffs and seeing an unsportsmanlike conduct call made for spraying the goalie would rank up there, but the stink has been made now so it should be watched. We can bet anything that that the first time it happens, if it happens again, in Detroit the fans will be more than happy to point it out for the officials.
While the Red Wings have a gripe about things because mostly it’s just a jerky move in the first place, the Red Wings should be toughening up here and standing up for Howard a bit better. We know they’ve had penalty issues in the series but letting your goalie get psychological warfare thrown his way is no good either.