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The Great Portland Screwjob of 2009... or not?

I devoted a good chunk of time going over and over and over the video from the Portland game on Saturday night and I think we can address some of the issues that came up from it.

One question Thom got out of the way on the pregame show.

Q: Why did Rob not call timeout when there was obvious confusion by the officials over the time left on the clock.

A: This is a pretty easy one. Timeouts are not allowed to be called back to back... since Portland had called their timeout to set up the face-off, Sumner could not call a timeout.

Ok now let's cover the sequence of events... listed by seconds left in the game.

22.8 - Wells throws the puck at the empty Portland net and rings it off the post. Two inches to the left and the game is effectively over.

19.0 - Portland gains possession and heads up the ice.

14.7 - Nielsen breaks up the rush but Portland maintains possession.

12.0 - Aronson works the puck into the zone.

10.5 - Chaffin gains control and chips off the glass. Aronson puts just enough pressure on Chaffin that he can't get more that a chip out of the zone.

5.0 - Rutkowski has passed the puck to Francis and you can hear PBP announcer Ian Furness say "5 seconds left" but actually by the time Rutkowski releases the puck there is 3.7 seconds left.

3.7 - Puck leaves Francis' stick and heads towards Pickard at the net. 4 Winterhawk players are roughly even with each other just above the circles spread across the zone.

3.0 - Pickard makes the save in the butterfly position. Referee Zalaski can be seen already having the whistle up to his mouth, likely in anticipation of a whistle.

2.6 - This is a very key number for obvious reasons. At 2.6 seconds Pickard has the puck saved in the butterfly position. 3 Winterhawk players are in the high slot ALL 3 players appear to still be slightly above the hash marks which is about 22 feet from the goal and roughly 16 feet from Pickard. Zalaski has the whistle in his mouth but the linesman has not yet made a move.

2.3 - Linesman makes his first stride towards the net. I've been told by hockey people that generally speaking linesmen are like robots, they move when the whistle blows and generally not before so this is a decent indication that Zalaski probably had blown the whistle between 2.3 and 2.6 seconds.

Quick break for a WHL rule check.

Second 32.2 of the WHL Rulebook states... "As there is human factor involved in blowing the whistle to stop play, the Referee may deem the play to be stopped slightly prior to the whistle actually being blown. The fact that the puck may come loose or cross the goal line prior to the sound of the whistle has no bearing if the Referee has ruled that the play had been stopped prior to this happening. In the event of any dispute regarding time or the expiration of penalties, the matter shall be referred to the Referee for adjustment and his decision shall be final. He may use the Video Goal Judge to assist in rendering the final decision."

So... here is what I'm thinking. The clock actually stops at 1.7 seconds and before the puck is dropped the linesman tells Zalaski something to the effect of "we need to check the clock". So Zalaski goes to the video judge and discusses. I'm not sure if he actually can see the video from the ice level but I have to assume that when he looks at the tape he sees that the whistle goes to his mouth around 2.6 seconds and says 'that is where I deemed that the play has been stopped' and decides that 2.6 seconds is where the clock should be placed.

However... the catch here is the Zalaski never looks at anything! He goes over to the scoretable talks to them briefly, then goes and says something to Sumner... Sumner then motions to his team and if I am reading lips correctly says "two" as in Zalaski just told him that they were adjusting the clock to 2.0 seconds. Moments later the clock is actually adjusted to 2.0 seconds..... but the linesman does not drop the puck right away and waits momentarily as the clock is adjusted up to 2.6 seconds. It appears though that Zalaski all along had known the clock would be reset to 2.6 seconds because they all stand around and wait until the clock is moved to 2.6.

So the clock now sits at 2.6 seconds. I stop-watched the time from puck drop to the time Zalaski points at the goal over 20 times yesterday and 7 more times today. Of the 7 trials I did today... my average with the stop-watch was 2.397 seconds. This is from puck drop to right before Zalaski points to the goal. If I wait until Zalaski points... I get around 2.6 seconds. So as far as I can tell the puck goes in before the clock reads 0.0.

I had a fellow fan breakdown the video into individual frames of the video and by conservative measures it appears as though the goal probably went in with about 0.5 seconds left on the clock.


I think Seattle has a legit gripe on a few things... If indeed Zalaski had blown the whistle with 2.6 seconds left, why was the whistle so quick with skaters still approximately 16 feet away from the net. With Portland calling timeout... why did it take so long to establish what the correct time is? Shouldn't Seattle be afforded the ability to know how much time is left on the clock well before Zalaski finally informs Rob Sumner at the bench... just a few seconds before the actual puck was dropped? With Portland having called a timeout... stripping Seattle of the opportunity to call a timeout themselves and set up their own strategy... the Tbirds were really given the old bait and switch tactic thinking they had 1.7 seconds left on the clock while the timeout was going on only to have nearly a full second put back on the clock and no time to change their strategy.

Having said that... by any honest measurement... it appears to me that the clock was likely correctly set to 2.6 seconds and the goal was correctly scored before 2.6 seconds had expired.

The average auditory reaction time of a human is .14 - .16 seconds and it took the Portland timekeeper anywhere from .6 - .9 seconds to actually stop the clock. This didn't cost the Tbirds the game... but is just simply poor execution.

Fault the timekeepers for a poor job, fault Zalaski (perhaps) for a quick whistle... but from my perspective they probably got the clock right and they probably scored the goal in enough time. Just a fluke goal in a fluke situation that cost the Tbirds a point.


Mike said...

The real problem is that Zalaski blew the whistle too early as Calvin was clearly about to drop the puck since the skaters were so far away with only a few seconds left. This was the bad call that led to the goal that shouldnt have happened.

Anonymous said...

Mike, as Tyler stated, there were numerous events that led to the goal that shouldn't have happened; Wells missing the empty net, Chaffin not clearing the puck, Pickard not dropping and sweeping the puck behind the net or off the boards right or left, Zalaski's part, the clock operator's part, Portland winning the draw, Seattle's defensive positioning, Francis' ability to get a shot away, and then there is both good and bad fortune, depending on your interest. The fact of the matter is that it was a fluke goal that happened to a young team at the end of a good effort. Bad luck. I am sure Portland has felt similarly the past three years. Sometimes things don't go your way and often it's when you can least afford it, emotionally. Tyler's last sentence sums it up perfectly.


Anonymous said...

It is what it's hockey. Although I haven't really heard or seen of many people who refuted the fact that Portland's goal was legit. Most people seem to know it was correct. The gripe I hear most and agreed with is when Portland started getting heavy momentum midway in the 3rd, it seemed Zalaski started giving them the benefit of a lot of key calls......But then again the many many reasons of why they didn't win is irrelevant they didn't.

Mike said...

Right many elements.. and if Zalaski doesnt blow the whistle early we arent having this conversation.

This of course comes on the heels of a horrible missed call the night before against Spok which led to an empty net goal. Lets start talking about getting better officiating so we can talk about players and not refs controlling the outcome of games.

Unknown said...

Yeah and mike, if wells puts home that goal, we aren't even talking about that whistle. The call would of never mattered. There's a lot of what ifs in sports, it happened, it won't get taken back, so let's stop talking about it, and let's sure as hell stop complaining about it. Every year a ref screws over a team in some way, it happened, get over it.

stbird said...

I could care less if there was 10 seconds left in the game. You don't give up a goal with 2.6 seconds left in the game, (unless its an empty net). We would be better off slashing the hell out of who ever gets the puck on the faceoff. No excuse, bad beat.

Anonymous said...

I hope when we are the benefit of a "screw" job you take the same amount of time out of your life to analize the film and enjoy the benefit.... my god we have 5 wins give it a rest.

Mike said...

Thats how the league gets away with such bad officiating.. everyone just says "well it happens to every team, get over it." How about making it happen fewer times to fewer teams each season?? How's that for an idea?

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