Kukla's Korner


Do Or Die, But Keep Overtime The Same

Over 100 shots on goal. Over 100 hits. Over 100 minutes of hockey.

That was Anaheim’s 4-3 win in Detroit yesterday, just over a minute into the third overtime period.

Don’t be fooled though; that represents exactly what hockey should be, whether it’s over in 60 minutes or still filled with smouldering hate after 120.

As I watched on TSN, during the extra intermissions, they trotted out an informal poll they had conducted previously, which asked at which point in a playoff game NHL coaches thought that it should be reduced to 4-on-4 hockey. Three said as soon as overtime begins, seven more wanting it to begin after the first overtime period, and another trio supporting the switch to start the third one. One more than that, fourteen, supported 5-on-5 hockey until the end.

It was an accepted evil to put the shootout in the regular season, to keep fans from wanting to leave their seats, to prevent the ‘dullness’ of a tie, and to wrap things up with an exciting punch, even if the scoring for such a system might be better off with some tweaking. Still, the shootout will always be a warping of the game of hockey.

Taking our team sport to such an individual level completely shakes the foundation of the teams’ battles. Had yesterday’s game gone to a shootout, you might find yourself a bit nervous if Anaheim’s only clicking line was going up against the seemingly endless stream of talented skaters from Detroit, or roles reversed if Osgood had slipped to his regular season play to face off against Hiller.

The reality is no different for overtime. Strip it down to four players, and you’ve taken away a third of Anaheim’s top line, their lone truly successful scoring threat, and you have to jumble together a few other lines hoping for something to mesh, likely leaving four forwards to warm the bench. Detroit has enough success that you could imagine a trio of deadly pairings ready to hunt down the game’s conclusion, but at the same time you might find that Holmstrom’s screenings don’t work as effectively with two fewer bodies around to help out and only three Detroit skaters to find that seeing eye shot.

Hockey is an 82-game regular season, one in which the Stanley Cup could ultimately cost up to 110 games of blood, sweat, and pain. It’s a war of attrition, a war that should not be altered. Are the players more tired? Undoubtedly, but when you see that Anaheim took their sixth defenceman, Brookbank, and gave him less than 15 minutes of ice time, or that Detroit did the same with Chelios seeing under 7, is it really preserving anyone’s energy? Would a coach really take his four lines (assuming he’s still using them all during the frustration of a tie game) and scrape together six to send over the boards in those critical near-death minutes?

Sure, the open ice creates more space for a certain type of player and team to take the win, while hurting other players and teams of a different mold, but is that really necessary? The action was not always edge of your seat in those extra 40 minutes of hockey, but chances and scrambles there were, and just the fact that one goal ends it all puts tension in even the sloppiest of wristers, more than enough to keep hockey fans screaming at every shot, and shocked and bewildered at every extra minute of overtime that their team allows to pass. This is where you find out who really wants it more, who can muster up the final bit of effort to end the game, or to just barely keep it alive.

Hockey is a war — armies assembled, lines drawn, tempers flaring — and this is a war that must be left to those men, and not some gimmick, to finally sort out.

Filed in: NHL General, NHL Rules, | SENShobo | Permalink


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About SENShobo

Native of Northern California.  Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.

I want to know about anything and everything related to the sport and the spectacle.  I watch, I react, I write it down.

My interest in the Sharks was initially a matter of geographic convenience and regional loyalty because that seemed to be how it worked.  I had no prior interest (at all-- AT ALL) in professional sports of any kind.  When I met hockey, it might have set off a chain reaction of general sports fandom.  It hasn't, I don't think it will.  At all.

Since then, that interest developed into full blown (mostly sort of usually almost completely) exclusive loyalty to the Sharks.

I started blogging a couple years ago on wordpress. I still occasionally put things there that I don't think fit here because they are not about the Sharks. Wherever my words wander, here on Kuklas Korner, they will (usually) hang on to a teal thread.

I can be found in cyberspace on Twitter @petshark47, or emailed at talkingstick@petshark.net

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