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Adam Proteau: Crease-crashing draws concern Add to ...

ADAM PROTEAU The Hockey News

Nice debate you've got going there, James and Eric. But there's another hot topic being league types are talking about - and this one also centers around NHL goaltenders.

A growing number of goalies believe kamikaze offensive tactics are gaining popularity among the opposition's forwards. The last lines of defence already are sick of the steamrolling, and as of this weekend, they're starting to take matters into their own hands.

"The refs aren't calling it," goalie Tim Thomas told the Boston Herald Saturday night, after Carolina's Erik Cole ran him over during a 5-2 Bruins loss. "(Opposition forwards) move their feet toward the net, and if the (defensemen) touch them at all, they just come at you feet-first, like Cole did in the first period. That's happening a lot around the league."

Thomas believes the league's focus on increasing offense has left him and his colleagues to fend for themselves.

"That's the way the NHL wants it," he said of players charging to the net with reckless abandon. "I don't blame the forwards for doing it. Everybody in the league is doing it."

But just because everybody is doing it, that doesn't mean goalies will continue to accept it.

"I'm not going to care one of these times," Thomas said. "If someone does that to me, they're going to lose some teeth."

A couple hours after Thomas vented, Edmonton's Dwayne Roloson took out similar frustrations when Blue Jackets star Rick Nash infringed upon his crease. Nash didn't lose any teeth when Roloson's stick connected with a particularly tender part of his person, but probably wished he had.

"I was in a lot of pain," Nash said after the game. "That's a dirty, dirty move. He hit someone where it hurts the most."

Mike Murphy, the NHL's senior vice-president of hockey operations, understands Thomas's concerns and has watched both games. However, he doesn't believe the league is facing an outbreak of crease-crashing.

"I don't want to downplay it, because everyone in the hockey operations department is for goaltender protection," Murphy said Monday. "But you have to look at the whole league. I'm not sure it's true that there's an overabundance of (hits on goalies)."

Murphy said the league reviews borderline plays both during and after games; if goalies are interfered with, his office is more than willing to step in and punish the offending parties.

"We've handed out lots of (goaltender interference) penalties this year and we've taken down goals when it's clear goalies have been tampered with," Murphy said, using Red Wings forward Tomas Holmstrom's disallowed goal Saturday against San Jose as an example.

"We've always maintained goaltenders should be free to do their job 'in the blue' (i.e., the crease), and that's something (director of officiating) Stephen Walkom emphasizes with the officials on a weekly, even daily basis."

Murphy added that we should understand goalies aren't always the cherubic angels their moms might hope them to be.

"Goalies are some of the greatest lobbyists there are," he said. "They're not beyond embellishment, either." Read Adam Proteau's blog at The Hockey News.com


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