2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Why the Andrew Shaw Overtime Goal Was Disallowed

He was using his head, but not in the way he needed to.

While I'm sure plenty of you were sleeping, the Anaheim Ducks and the Chicago Blackhawks went into overtime in Game 2 of their Western Conference Final series last night. In the second overtime, Chicago forward Andrew Shaw thought he scored the game winner, and the rest of the team celebrated like it. Just look at the header image. And this video.

The officials then conferred and apparently also had some help from video review, according to the NHL Situation Room blog. If you looked at the video, you'll notice one of the referees who should have been pointing to the net didn't point to the net to signal a good goal. I would assume from this that the original call on the ice was no goal, though the referee also didn't give the wash out signal to explicitly say it wasn't a goal. Based on the NHL Situation Room blog, though, it sounds like video review upheld the referee's original call. No goal for Chicago.

If you're thinking that there's nothing in the rulebook that explicitly prohibits what Shaw did, you're right. There is no provision that says "Thou shalt not headbutt the puck into the goal." The NHL Rulebook does have this provision though:

78.5 Disallowed Goals – Apparent goals shall be disallowed by the Referee and the appropriate announcement made by the Public Address Announcer for the following reasons:

(i) When the puck has been directed, batted or thrown into the net by an attacking player other than with a stick.

Last I checked, Shaw's head isn't a hockey stick, and since he headbutted the puck into the goal, that action directly falls into the "directed, batted or thrown" phrasing of the NHL rulebook. As cool and novel a play it was, it isn't allowed under current rules. And just so the NHL has all its bases covered, they also include this provision under Rule 78.5:

(xiii) Any goal scored, other than as covered by the official rules, shall not be allowed.

This provision is basically just a restatement of 78.4, which starts in part by saying, "A goal shall be scored when the puck shall have been put between the goal posts by the stick of a player of the attacking side" (emphasis mine).

There's another point to think about in terms of why this rule won't be changed to allow headbutt goals. Aside from the attempt to keep hockey the way it is — you try to score goals with a hockey stick, not anything else — it's also a way to prevent players from taking deliberately dangerous actions in the course of play. Why does high-sticking a puck mean a goal is disallowed? Why is kicking a puck not allowed? High-sticking is a penalty if it makes contact with someone's face. Kicking is a penalty if it's done against another player, and it's also incredibly dangerous to goaltenders in the crease if players try to kick pucks in.

It's the same with Shaw's play. Headbutting is a penalty under the rules, so in order to dis-incentivize players from using their head as a weapon, they won't be allowed to headbutt the puck into the net. If it deflected off his helmet and Shaw didn't "direct" the puck in with his head, that goal would have counted, but as things stand now and for the foreseeable future, those plays will only exist in soccer.

It didn't end up mattering anyway. Marcus Kruger scored a more legitimate goal in the third overtime. Ugh.