In speaking with folks around the NHL this season, I can happily report that the forces of logic and equity are amassing to battle against the scourge on overtime hockey we know as the shootout.
From Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland pushing for 3-on-3 OTs to the incredulity over Kaspars Daugavins’s circus trick shot, the notion that there has to be a better way to determine victories (and playoff teams) than a made-for-TV skills competition.
But, for now, we’re stuck with the antithesis of team sports as the ultimate arbiter of overtime wins and losses. And while injecting rules and regulations into this frivolity might seem pointless, we can at least attempt to connect the skills competition to the actual hockey being played in the previous 65 minutes.
Which brings us to John Tavares of the New York Islanders on Thursday night, and a common sense rules change for the shootout.
Tavares and the Islanders defeated the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-3, in a shootout last night. He took the third shot for the Isles, failing in his attempt against Ilya Bryzgalov. Josh Bailey eventually won the game in the fourth round of the skills competition.
Prior to the shootout, the Flyers were buzzing the Islanders’ zone as the seconds ticked down in the 4-on-4 overtime. Tavares helped break that momentum by illegally interfering with Claude Giroux, and earned a 2-minute holding minor at the end of OT.
Which, of course, has no repercussions for the shootout.
Which, of course, is asinine.
From Rule 84.4 from the NHL, here’s how shootouts are handled with regard to penalties:
“All players are eligible to participate in the shootout unless they are serving a ten-minute misconduct or have been assessed a game misconduct or match penalty.”
In other words: Slash, trip, cross-check, punch, elbow or do what-you-like at the end of overtime; as long as you’re handed a minor penalty, you’re still golden for the skills competition.
So this becomes the most common sense of common sense rules changes: Players serving a penalty at the end of overtime can’t participate in the shootout.
Hey, novel concept: This might prevent players from breaking rules with reckless abandon in the final seconds of the 4-on-4 with little to no consequence.
I know: Attempting to inject reason or fairness into the skills competition is like trying to inject sobriety into “Spring Breakers.” The NHL doesn’t want John Tavares in the penalty box; it wants him on the highlight reel for the shootout.
Maybe they’ll get around to tweaking the penalty rule when they get around to fixing the “goalie can skate up and punch a guy in the face, and the only thing that happens is they redo the shootout attempt” rule.
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