TORONTO – Clarity and confusion are borderline antonyms. Supposed to be, anyway. The problem in sports, and perhaps most pronounced in the NHL, is too many stabs at achieving the first have often led to an increase in the second.
Such is the case in the latest NHL head-scratcher to adversely affect the Flyers in a season only 10 games old. As a league spokesman doubled down Friday on the explanation of why a last-minute goal that would have likely sent Thursday's game with Ottawa into overtime was not reviewable, players struggled to understand how a player jamming in his own rebound was somehow not, to cite Rule 38.4, a "continuous play.''
"I don't know, I thought I tapped it once or twice,'' said Sean Couturier, who stuffed his own rebound into Craig Anderson's glove as it lay inside the goal with 56.2 seconds left in the 5-4 loss. "What is it, you can't tap in a rebound now? It's not like we hit his glove into the net either. The puck was continuously moving.''
A quick primer: The NHL situation room initiated a review to determine whether the puck crossed the line. It did. But referee Steve Kozari told the situation room that he was in the process of blowing the play dead because he lost sight of the puck. That's Rule 78.5, and for years it left no wiggle room for goals scored where the referee's vision of the play was obscured. So a few years ago, the NHL added Rule 38.4 to allow for goals that enter the net "as the culmination of a continuous play where the result was unaffected by the whistle (i.e., the timing of the whistle was irrelevant to the puck entering the net at the end of a continuous play).''
"I guess that's the biggest excuse these days,'' said Couturier. "Intent to blow the whistle.''
"They're obviously going to defend it, right?'' Wayne Simmonds said. "They can't say they're wrong, right?''
Someone suggested to Simmonds that there was too much pride in the NHL offices to do that.
"A lot of pride,'' Simmonds said. "And no one willing to swallow it.''
"We had two goals called back that I thought both should have counted,'' said Simmonds, referring to an earlier disallowed goal, when Jordan Weal was cited for goalie interference on Brandon Manning's goal even though Anderson initiated contact between the two. That reversal, though, was grudgingly accepted Thursday night and even more so Friday.
"It's so hard,'' said goaltender Brian Elliott, who is likely to get the start against Toronto tonight. "… It's all up to discretion. We really don't have any control of that.''
What they do have control of, of course, is where they head from here. After two dooming starts that have led to losses, the Flyers spent much of their practice and post-practice tweaking the details that have done them in. Travis Konecny, Weal, and Travis Sanheim were the last to leave the Air Canada Centre ice Thursday, and several off-ice group sessions – including one for special-teams play — followed.
"We have to be sharper,'' said Couturier. "Execute out there. Turnovers are costing us.''