In what may come as little consolation to the Nashville Predators and their fans, the National Hockey League is working on a revised interpretation of the faceoff violation rule that was called against Nashville Predators center Paul Gaustad in overtime during Saturday night’s road game against the Minnesota Wild.
A league source confirmed that while the NHL and its spokespeople are supposed to “hold the company line” on the penalty that was whistled against Gaustad at 2:48 of overtime Saturday, the way the play was called was contrary to the intent of the rule, and that has been communicated to the league’s on-ice officials should a similar situation occur again.
With a draw in the defensive zone, to the right of goaltender Chris Mason, Gaustad squared off against the Wild’s Mikael Granlund. Linesman Ryan Galloway dropped the puck, but instead of it landing flat, the puck immediately bounced straight up from the faceoff dot.
The left hands of Gaustad and Granlund appeared to contact the puck simultaneously before the puck then caromed off of Gaustad’s right hand and then it traveled toward the near boards.
Galloway immediately blew the play dead in calling Gaustad for a faceoff violation, officially listed as a delay of game penalty.
As written, Rule 76.4, which is new for this season, states:
Both players facing-off are prohibited from batting the puck with their hand in an attempt to win the face-off. Any attempt by either center to win the face-off by batting the puck with their hand shall result in a minor penalty. This penalty shall be announced as a "Minor Penalty for Delay of Game - Face-off Violation." Once the face-off is deemed complete (and winner of the face-off is clear), hand passes shall be enforced as per Rule 79.
The rule’s intent was to prevent one player from gaining an unfair advantage on pucks that were on the ice following the drop, and not pucks that flew back up nearly to the height of the linesman’s hand at the time of said drop.
The best-case scenario for all involved would have been for Galloway to blow his whistle immediately after realizing that his drop of the puck was poor.
Predators head coach Barry Trotz was a member of the committee who worked on getting the rule in place, and he has voiced his displeasure with the call since it was whistled.