What Brendan Gallagher did on the overturned goal last night vs. the Bruins was perfectly legal according to the NHL rules. A player has a right to be in the goalie crease as long as he doesn't contact with the goalie and interfere with his ability to make a save.
We all remember previously how players weren't allowed to be in the crease without the puck, which led to many overturned goals and controversies, until Brett Hull scored a goal in the Stanley Cup final while his skate preceded the puck in the crease. The Stars celebrated a Stanley Cup-winning goal, the officials didn't have the stones to put a halt to things and overturn the goal, and the NHL quietly did away with that rule later on.
So the NHL can't have it both ways. Brendan Gallagher is allowed to be in the paint to dig for the puck, deflect it, drive defencemen crazy.
What Zdeno Chara did though, that was illegal. According to its rule book, a player can't crosscheck another, or physically interfere or hit another who doesn't have the puck. Yet none of his actions were in question on this play. The NHL tolerates, or rather fosters this persistent, pernicious level of rule-breaking in its game, whether it be slashing or hooking or holding or interference or tripping or slew-footing.
So all the handwringing about Gally needing to be careful, adjust his game, since the refs have him in their sights, it may be practical, but it's not underpinned by the rules of the NHL. This is one of those code things, how you can't interfere with a player, but if a forward chips a puck past a defenceman, the defenceman can get in his way, slow him down, hold up his stick and make a barrier out of it, and the refs, the league, the GM's give that an indulgent shrug of the shoulders. That's just a hockey play. Defence. Playing tight.
As I wrote last night, the fix is in. This wasn't a call based on the facts, it was based on the fact that the league, the networks, the refs, they all hate Montréal, and they can't be objective when they have to make a judgment call involving our team.
If the league doesn't want Brendan to be in the crease, they can enact the very reasonable, very effective IIHF rule:
Protection of Goalkeeper: The play is stopped if an attacking player stands in the goal crease.
(Rule 534 – Interference – If an attacking player deliberately stands in the goal crease, without interfering with the goalkeeper, the referee shall stop the play and the ensuing face-off shall take place at the nearest face-off spot in the neutral zone.)
Simple. And, the subsequent faceoff occurs outside the zone, so attacking players learn quickly to avoid the crease.
But the NHL wants more goals. Not necessarily more spectacular Gilbert Perreault or Hakan Loob goals, just goals. And they're not going to ban microfracture-causing slashes, or Don Cherry-pleasing obstruction, so they'll generate more ugly, scrummy, bouncy, deflecty goals by allowing players to crash the net and get in the goalie's kitchen and make him uncomfortable.
Except when it's the Canadiens. Then they'll object.
The NHL is a farce.