Q: What is the rule regarding an opposing player being in the crease when a goal is scored? I remember in prior years that if a goal was scored and so much as a toe was over the line, the goal would be waved off, unless the player was pushed in. It now seems as though you can be in the crease as long as you are not directly interfering with the goalie.
MOLINARI: There's a good reason if that appears to be the case, because it means the referees actually are applying the rules the way they are written.
Rule 69 addresses goaltender interference, and it is stated early in Rule 69.1 that "goals scored while attacking players are standing in the crease may, in appropriate circumstances, be allowed." That obviously is a dramatic change from the days when goals could be waved off if replays confirmed that an attacking player simply had the tip of his toenail inside the crease. (Unless it was a goal that would win a Stanley Cup, as any Buffalo fan who still feels the sting of Brett Hull's overtime score in Game 6 of the 1999 final will be quick to point out.)
That does not, however, mean forwards have carte blanche to impede the goaltender in any way he sees fit. Indeed, that point is made repeatedly and emphatically in Rule 69, including in this excerpt: "The overriding rationale of this rule is that a goalkeeper should have the ability to move freely within his goal crease without being hindered by the actions of an attacking player. If an attacking player enters the goal crease and, by his actions, impairs the goalkeeper's ability to defend his goal, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed."
Q: What is the reason Tuesday's game was the last FSN broadcast of the Pens? This leaves people in the dark who do not have the other channel that carries NHL games.
Fran Nap, State College
MOLINARI: While Tuesday's game probably was FSN Pittsburgh's final broadcast of the season, that wasn't guaranteed as of this writing (hours before the start of Game 4 between the Penguins and New York) because FSN was entitled to carry Games 6 and 7 of the series.
Beginning in the conference finals, however, Versus' contract gives it exclusive cable rights to all games (other than those carried over-the-air on NBC), just as it had for Games 1 and 4 in the Penguins-Rangers series.
That obviously causes problems for fans who do not have access to Versus, but it's not hard to understand why the network insists on getting as much exclusivity as possible when negotiating contracts. Hockey does not have broad appeal across the country, so locking up the fans with a vested interest in the games is a good way to attract the largest possible audience.
Q: Like many other Swedish NHL fans, I am delighted about the Penguins starting next season in Stockholm against Ottawa. How many Penguins fans are expected to make the trip to watch the two games?
Micael Frost, Stockholm, Sweden
MOLINARI: There hasn't been any word yet on how many Penguins fans are likely to travel to Sweden for the games against the Senators, but it seems likely that some will take advantage of the opportunity to visit your corner of the world. That is sure to remain a back-burner issue, however, until sometime after the Penguins' playoff run ends.
Also, the intent of playing games in Stockholm and Prague to kick off the 2008-09 season isn't to lure fans to follow their team -- be it the Penguins, Ottawa, the Rangers or Tampa Bay -- across the Atlantic, but to give more European fans a first-hand look at the NHL's product. Not necessarily because there are any short-term plans to base any franchise outside of North America, but because solidifying and/or broadening a league's fan base never is a bad idea.