It was, depending on your philosophies on hockey and on life, either a low-down attempt to rattle a goalie's concentration with a ticky-tack stoppage, or a completely valid demand that everyone play within the rules. But there's no question that Darryl Sutter pointing out the technically illegal orange tape on Ben Scrivens's stick in the middle of a shootout was a veteran move.
Edmonton hadn't won in nine games. They hadn't beaten Los Angeles in seven. The Kings are the defending Cup champs. The Oilers are the Oilers. But once things went to the shootout, Sutter wasn't about to forfeit a single advantage. After each team had shot once—with each failing to score—the Kings coach alerted officials to the orange tape on the knob of Scrivens's stick.
Sutter was absolutely within his rights to complain. The pertinent part of rule 10.2 says that knob's got to be white.
In the case of a goalkeeper's stick, there shall be a knob of white tape or some other protective material approved by the League. This knob must not be less than one-half inch (1/2'') thick at the top of the shaft.
Failure to comply with this provision of the rule will result in the goalkeeper's stick being deemed unfit for play. The goalkeeper's stick must be changed without the application of a minor penalty.
Did you know that rule? I didn't know that rule. Darryl Sutter knew that rule, and had known it for a long time before last night. (More on that in a second.)
The rule exists to keep anything bright from distracting opposing skaters. But the Kings weren't particularly perturbed, or they'd have said something during the game. Instead, Sutter broke out the letter of the law just to try and shake Scrivens—a notoriously intellectual netminder—when he was in the zone. It was the hockey equivalent of football's icing the kicker. It's not a coincidence that Sutter brought it up right before a King was about to shoot.
It's also not a coincidence that Scrivens spent half a season in Los Angeles. He's always used orange tape, and Sutter knew it. The coach didn't even pretend he hasn't been saving this bullet.
(Perhaps a better cross-sport comparison than icing the kicker is Billy Martin and George Brett's pine tar.)
"Nothing wrong with that," a sanguine Scrivens said of Sutter's well-timed qualm.
I admire Sutter's honesty, and his ruthlessness. (For further reading, Sutter's profiled in this month's issue of Los Angeles magazine.) I'm also glad his gamesmanship ultimately didn't work. Anze Kopitar fired wide once the action resumed, and the Oilers went on to win with the shootout's lone goal, from David Perron in the fourth round. It was the first solo outing behind the bench for interim coach Todd Nelson, and his first win. After a well-deserved celebration will likely come a talk with Scrivens about how color-coordinated his gear actually needs to be.