Thanks to Ryan O'Reilly‘s shorthanded goal in overtime on Friday night the St. Louis Blues were able to win consecutive games for just the third time this season. A shorthanded goal in overtime is always noteworthy just because of the circumstances, especially when it lifts a team that has been struggling all season.
What made this one so fascinating for the Blues is why they were shorthanded in the first place.
Just 1:31 into the overtime period Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko was whistled for using an illegal stick when he picked up a stick that originally belonged to defenseman Colton Parayko.
This resulted in a lot of confusion both during the game and the day after.
There is nothing in the rule book against using a teammates stick (it is actually quite common when a defender loses or breaks their stick during the flow of the game) but the NHL seems to have one very large exception when it comes to equipment — players that have been granted an exception to use an oversized stick because of their height.
Via NHL rule 10.1
No stick shall exceed sixty-three inches (63″) in length from the heel to the end of the shaft nor more than twelve and one-half inches (121/2″) from the heel to the end of the blade.
Requests for an exception to the length of the shaft (only) may be submitted in writing to and must be approved by the League’s Hockey Operations Department prior to any such stick being approved for use.
Only players 6’6” tall or more will be considered for exception. Maximum length of a stick granted an exception under this rule is sixty-five inches (65”).
Blues coach Craig Berube said after the game on Friday that the 6’6″ Parayko is one of the few players around the league that has one of those exceptions. Because of that it seemed to indicate that Tarasenko would be penalized for using it, and it was immediately called during the game with no challenge from the Avalanche or a measurement by the officials.
As we would find out on Saturday, this is not what the NHL wants to see happen in this situation.
Rutherford has a further statement from the NHL which admits the referees technically, by the letter of the law, got the call right, but that they don’t want to see it called in that situation.
From the NHL, via Rutherford:
“It is a minor penalty to play with an exempt stick so technically ref got it right. But the NHL does not want that penalty called in that situation. It does not want refs nor players to need presence of mind to know who’s using who’s stick or if it’s exempt during play. It could be penalized if the bench had handed Parayko’s stick to Tarasenko or if Tarasenko had returned for his next shift with it. But moving forward the NHL will only call a penalty under those circumstances when play is stopped and when challenged by opposition. Even if Colorado had challenged last night, the NHL would not want that to be called a penalty in the manner it unfolded.”
In other words, if it happens during the flow of the game — let it go.
Fortunately for the Blues it did not end up hurting them as O’Reilly scored the winning just 35 seconds later.
Parayko also scored two goals during the game.
This is the second obscure rule the Blues have been involved with in as many games this week.
In their previous game, a 4-3 come-from-behind win against the Florida Panthers, they had a goal disallowed on a weird play when a Robert Bortuzzo dump-in from center ice deflected off of referee Tim Peel and bounced into the net behind Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo. NHL 78.5 rule state that any apparent goal will be disallowed when it has been deflected directly into the net off of an official.
The Blues are back in action on Sunday afternoon against the Calgary Flames and it might be worth watching just to see what obscure rule has to be pulled out of the rule book.
(H/T Scouting The Refs)
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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.