Should penalties in NHL playoffs carry over to next game? GMs might debate it

It happens in nearly every Stanley Cup Playoff series: Penalties called late in a contentious game, as one team gets its frustrations out and attempts to send a message; or a player does something dastardly, only to see his time in the penalty box end when the final buzzer sounds.

But what if the end of the game didn't mean the end of a penalty?

What if these infractions carried over to the following game — so that one team starts with a man already in the penalty box?

"I think it might get talked about again. I can see some value to it," said Brendan Shanahan, NHL senior vice president of player safety. He said he's yet to see a docket for Wednesday's NHL GMs meeting in New York.

One of Shanahan's most controversial decisions of the 2012 NHL playoffs fit within this debate: The roughing call on Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators for slamming Detroit Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg's head into the glass at the end of Game 1 of that first-round series.

Weber was fined $2,500 by the NHL, but the Red Wings never saw a second of power play time from the incident, which occurred at the 20:00 mark of the third period.

"There are things that happen at the end of the game that people get angry about because there's no justice," Shanahan said, "and then they look to us. A slash to the back of the leg, for example, isn't worth a suspension. A fine doesn't matter [to the aggrieved party]."

Then there are situations like in Game 3 of the Pittsburgh Penguins' series against the Philadelphia Flyers, in which 16 penalties of varying degrees of length were called between the 15:18 mark of the third and the end of the game.

This penalty "carry over" idea isn't new; it was something former player discipline czar Colin Campbell toyed with in previous years. In fact, it was another Penguins/Flyers series that sparked this debate back in 2009; you remember the series in which Dan Carcillo was suspended for a game after a hit on Max Talbot?

From Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Readers [suggested] that having late-game penalties carry over to the next game would be an effective deterrent; a variation on that proposal calls for penalized players to be ineligible to play in the subsequent game for a period equal to their unserved penalty time. (For example, if a player was assessed a 10-minute misconduct and two minors at 19:30 of the third period, he couldn't take his first shift in the next game until 13 1/2 minutes of the first period had expired.) The problem with that is that games are, for the most part, self-contained entities, and the thinking here is that teams should be neither rewarded nor punished for something that happened previously.

From Bangin' Panger in May 2009, about another Pittsburgh game:

Think about tonight for example: If the penalties carried over, you'd have Pittsburgh starting Game Carolina...with about a 4 minutes left of a 5 minute major penalty. You'd have Kris Letang, a major PP contributor, basically sitting in the box for 10 minutes, Bayda probably out for the game, and then a couple other players in the box. Makes for an interesting game plan on off days no? And you would definitely have to think that coaches and players would think twice about "sending a message" at the end of the game.

Because really...what is the point of handing out penalties once the game has ended? Well if they carried over, then we'd have a point...and a consequence for the penalized team's actions.

The devil's in the details here. What kind of penalties would carry over? Fighting and roughing? Stick work? Tripping and obstruction? What about 10-minute misconducts, which are handed out by refs at the end of contentious playoff games like Oprah gives out cars?

There's obviously an argument to be made for carrying over penalties, as it would cut down on late-game malarkey and create actual consequences for a cheap shot at the end of a game. It's for infractions that don't rise to the level of supplemental discipline but still warrant recourse.

"It would clean a lot of that stuff up," Shanahan said, "but you'd need to clear up every detail."

There would have to be a staggering amount of conditions in place to make something like this work. And shouldn't there be some leeway for message sending at the end of games, considering how that inevitably increases the drama for the following contest?

The GMs might debate it; but before they do, what say you?

Pass or Fail: Late-game penalties carrying over to the following playoff game.

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