Lament for the Shootout
It's a little early in these playoffs to get all misty.
But I must confess. I miss the shootout.
Not that the OT games thus far in the post-season - Game 1 of Buffalo-Philly, Game 1 of Anaheim-Calgary, Game 1 of Edmonton-Detroit - haven't been entertaining and fun.
Daniel Briere, Darren McCarty and Kirk Maltby all got to play hero for one night, and the goals by Briere and McCarty were actually nice scores. Maltby's was the kind that too often decides important OT matches, a lucky carom off an unsuspecting opponent's stick.
The fact that the NHL is thus far doing a very, very good job of calling penalties just as they were called during the regular season is producing terrific hockey, and that's certainly the case in OT where in previous years action was reduced to a crawl when referees literally refused to blow the whistle on any type of foul.
Still, I miss the shootout.
It's funny how the debate over this new wrinkle went all but silent over the course of the season as even the loudest opponents had to relent in the face of widespread acceptance. People are still arguing over the rule about players flipping the puck over the glass, the trapezoid behind the nets for goalies and the very dicey goalie-interference calls that are appearing nightly.
But the shootout? Nobody says it's a bad thing anymore, just as you never hear anybody - even Ron MacLean! - argue for the return of the red line for two-line passes.
Remember the great red line debate? How teams would only trap and it would turn the game into ping-pong, a series of unsuccessful long bomb passes?
Funny, you don't hear that anymore.
But back to the shootout. If it was appropriate to play such a significant role in determining regular season standings, it's not clear to me why it would be impossible to use it in the playoffs.
Goodness, it has now become an article of faith among die-hard Leaf supporters that their club would have been in the playoffs if not for the shootout.
Surely a mechanism that causes a team to miss the playoffs altogether isn't too gimmicky for determining the winner of a playoff game.
I'm not saying use the same regular season format for the playoffs, five minutes of four-on-four OT and then a shootout.
How about 20 minutes of regular OT followed by 20 minutes of four-on-four combat, with a shootout then used if the game is still tied.
Five shooters each, not like the regular season.
That would be no more unfair that it was for Edmonton in their opener against Detroit when Maltby's shot deflected off Rem Murray's stick past Dwayne Roloson.
Plus, every once in a while, we'd get to see the shootout in the post-season.
If the atmosphere was electric in NHL rinks all season whenever a shootout was required, imagine what it would be like in the playoffs. Moroever, for TV purposes, you'd have a lot more people sticking around to watch long OT sessions if they knew, for certain, that they would be able to see a winner emerge before they went to bed.