It must be that Cale Makar’s rear end just takes up too much space.
That’s the only reasonable explanation to Makar, based on how the referees clarified his wrongdoing to him.
Makar skated to the penalty box red in the face, cursing and shaking his head in equal parts amusement and disbelief with 8:32 remaining in a tie game Wednesday. He was sentenced for interference against Vancouver center Dakota Joshua, ending an Avalanche power play prematurely. It took 32 seconds for the Canucks to score the game-winner at 4-on-4.
As for the penalty, “they said I stuck my (butt) out,” Makar said. “I don’t think I did there. Maybe I did. I don’t know.”
His coach does know.
“He was fine,” Jared Bednar said. “Him and (JT) Compher were both stopped there. … It seems pretty clear to me, but apparently not for the way things are going in the league, because one night it’s called. Next night it’s not.”
The so-called inconsistent call in question is interference against a player who is waiting at the blue line to cross into the offensive zone. Interference, at its simplest, is called when a skater intentionally goes out of his way to impede the path of an opponent who does not possess the puck.
But in Makar’s case, it wasn’t a matter of going out of his way to disrupt an opponent’s progress. The defending Norris Trophy winner argued he was the first player to occupy the space in which he was waiting. Joshua skated into him and fell to the ice. Makar was punished.
“It’s interesting. It’s a very complex conversation, obviously, because when you don’t really understand what’s going on, from my point of view, then how am I supposed to improve?” Makar said.
He was just beginning what turned out to be a two-minute opening statement of sorts, his entry point into a seven-minute interview focused entirely on the rule.
“It’s happened now two or three times this year. It’s tough. Whose ice is that? That’s the real question,” he said. “It’s tough. You have a guy skating backward in the neutral zone at you, and if I go forward, I go in the O-zone for an offside. In that circumstance, (Compher) is right there. I guess I can go back, but I’ll probably just run right into (Joshua). I’m shoulder-checking to see if he’s going to run into me. … If I was standing still in the offensive zone and somebody runs into me, whose fault is that?
“Even with their explanation, both sides just don’t understand what we’re looking for in terms of what to call. That’s where my head’s at.”
Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon told Aarif Deen of Mile High Sports that the Makar penalty “doesn’t make any sense,” and that referees tend to make that call disproportionately against teams entering the zone on a power play; less so at even strength.
How would Bednar like to see it called?
“I think if you’re skating across the line, setting an intentional pick, moving into that player’s ice, it should be called interference,” he said. “I think when you get to the line and you’re stopped and you’re occupying ice, it’s up to the defending player to move around it. That’s the way I see it. You’re entitled to ice everywhere else on the entire rink. I don’t see why you’re not entitled to ice if you’re there early and stopped on the power play. But it’s called differently every night. So we’ll have to get clarity on it again.”
Makar said worrying about the referees too much is a “loser mentality,” but he repeated that the only clarity he received was that he “stuck my (butt) out.” He said the call comes with a consequence: Players will intentionally collide with stationary opponents at the blue line, fishing for the whistle.
If that’s the case, Makar said, so be it. Colorado must adjust accordingly.
“The set play on every single team is for your D-man to take space away from their forward backing into the zone, so he has to go around you,” he said. “…And now teams are exploiting that, obviously, with running into guys. Which is fine. And it’s just something we need to improve on.”