by Mike Chen on 05/04/09 at 06:14 PM ET
Ok, so now comes a report that Brenden Shanahan and members of the competition committee were pretty darn close to recommending 4-on-4 playoff overtime following one OT period. Keep in mind that competition committee recommendations don’t automatically get installed in the game as they’ve got to pass Board of Governors approval first.
Still, the fact that the people on the committee—a collection of players and hockey personnel—gave changing overtime such a long look is really disturbing. I try to be open-minded and progressive when it comes to the game but changing playoff overtime falls squarely in the idiotic category.
Here’s something that might be easier. In fact, it’d probably prevent a lot of games going to overtime in the first place, and it’d level the playing field for every team.
Call the damn penalties.
Now I know we bitch about NHL officiating every playoff but I’d say since the lockout, the usual regular season-to-playoff slip hasn’t been as drastic as it was prior to the lockout. I suppose this year’s has followed that same pattern, but it’s because the officiating on interference really fell in the second half of the game. I suppose that they’re so focused on making stick fouls black and white (is a stick horizontal and did it touch the opposing player?) that they forgot to call these all together.
Here’s my challenge to you. Pick any playoff game, put aside your allegiances for five minutes of playing time and watch for interference—that is, any defensive movement impeding a forechecker when the puck isn’t immediately in play. If the puck is dumped from the redline and a defenseman gets in the way of the forechecker right past the blueline, that’s technically interference. That’s all over the place. If you put a quarter away for every instance of this on either side, you’ll probably be able to go down to your local pub and buy yourself a drink.
In the third period and beyond, this stuff gets worse. Why? Well, at that point, players are exhausted, and that fatigue tends to cause players to “cheat” a little more. Also, if the refs have called the game loose to that point, they know what they can get away with. If you’re running on fumes in double OT and you know you can get away with bearhugging on a guy in the slow, why *wouldn’t* you do it to prevent a goal?
I’ve said before that I’ll never, ever understand why swallowing a whistle means “letting the players play.” There are rules for a reason, and if you want to have a league where holding, hooking, and interference are allowed, then eliminate them from the rules. If you’re going to let the players play, then that really means you should be calling the rules so that any cheating players are penalized and the honest skilled players are rewarded.
And if you do that in overtime, rather than just letting all these penalties slide, you probably won’t get to triple OT.
Calling the rules—what a concept, huh?
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