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Murray Musings

By Tom Murray,

Years ago, when Bob Verdi was covering the Blackhawks for the Chicago Tribune, I was lucky enough to be able to sign him up as a columnist (along with Stan Fischler) for The Hockey News. And every week he would deliver his “News & Views” of all that was going on in the game. So Verd, this one’s for you:

News: 50th Anniversary of JFK assassination.

Views: Hard to believe. Even harder to grasp--never mind admit--I’m old enough to remember that day. The memories haven’t faded over the years, starting with the appearance of my school’s principal in an afternoon class, somberly announcing the president had been shot and we were all to go home immediately. Then later that day, my sister waiting for my dad to arrive home from work, spotting his car and then racing to the end of the driveway, waving her arms. The car stops. His window rolling down. Did you hear about the president, she wonders. Then the wheels spinning, screeching, gravel spraying and the car roaring past her and all of us and into the garage. But what I remember most is I had a hockey game the next morning and we were supposed to go that night to some local store--dating myself yet again here; was it the long-defunct E.J. Korvette?--to buy new skates. Did I nervously approach Dad and dare ask if we were still going? Did he just gruffly say let’s go and off we went? I don’t remember. What I do recall is we did go to get the skates, just the two of us. And I remember how quiet that drive was and how sad Dad was. And how eerily silent the store was that night. Open for business as usual. People wandering about, life somehow going on. Then another sad and quiet drive back home. And yes I played my game the next morning.

News: On a lighter note, NHL GM’s contemplating changes to overtime format.

Views: There’s all kinds of speculation going around--all designed to cut down on the number of shootouts to decide games. The best suggestion of all is the idea long advocated by Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland: If the game isn’t resolved after the designated five minutes of four-on-four sudden death OT, then play another five minutes of three-on-three before moving on to the shootout.

Great idea. But why not just cut right to the chase and eliminate four-on-four altogether and start the overtime as a three-on-three? And maybe extend that period from five minutes to seven and a half or eight? That way, the concern about taking too much extra time to decide the game on chewed-up ice is eliminated at the same time more space is made available for players to exhibit their skills--and presumably end the game before a shootout, even more than in four-on-four.

As longtime hockey writer Stu Hackel pointed out in a recent column, since the shootout format was adopted at the start of the 2005-06 season, 1,235 of the 2,176 games that went to overtime needed a shootout to decide a winner. That’s right around 57 percent, typical of the year-by-year trend of slightly more than half of all overtime games going to a shootout.

Until this year.

Of this season’s first 66 games that have been tied after 60 minutes, 43 needed a shootout. Hackel did the math. That’s 65 percent or, two-thirds, a big jump up from the trend.

Which may explain why Holland’s idea and its derivations are gaining traction with the league’s general managers. Despite its popularity with the fans, many of the GMs and hockey traditionalists view the shootout as a gimmick, and therefore a lousy way to decide a game. (Remember the uproar earlier this season after the Leafs Mason Raymond’s spin-o-rama against the Senators?)

So why not just go right to the three-on-three?

Can you imagine a scenario where Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and, say, Duncan Keith start a three-on-three OT against Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang? The hunch here is it not only won’t take the allotted time to resolve the game, but as the number of shootouts (and controversial moves in them) goes down, the level of excitement for fans and players alike increases exponentially.

By the way, thanks to some penalties in the OT, we got a little preview of this three-on-three scenario in last week’s game between, ironically, Holland’s Red Wings and the Washington Capitals. At one point Ovechkin, Datsyuk, Zetterberg and I don’t recall who else were all on the ice together. What I do recall is I was on the edge of my seat throughout and wishing I could see a lot more.

Filed in: NHL Talk, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: tom+murray


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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at pk@kuklaskorner.com


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