Brandon Pirri GWG in SO Saturday verse Boston
Photo Credits to Alan Diaz-Associated Press
While, we all enjoy watching guys like David Pastrnak, Patrick Kane, Paval Datsyuk, and Sidney Crosby go one on one with elite goaltenders it is now time to move on from the breakaway skill challenge that can cost teams that oh so crucial extra point. As the Boston Bruins are imploding we can only hope for their sake that another shootout does not occur. During this season Boston is 3-9 in the shootout. If my math is correct here that means Boston has only been able to gather three out of a possible twelve points. Where does this team find themselves now? Well, Ottawa has now jumped Boston into 8th place for the final wild card spot. So the question now is why is the NHL allowing teams who have no shot at the playoffs the chance to be rewarded for winning in a breakaway contest? Save that for the NHL All-Star Weekend! In this 2014-2015 season ten non-playoff teams have better shootout records than Boston who rank 26th in the league.
In a new age of hockey where every night there seems to be an overtime or shootout (40% of games go to OT) , it is time for NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to make the game right again, and stop with the nonsense of allowing teams to gain extra points for squeaking by, only to have a shootout specialist win a game. Last time I checked hockey was played as a team, and not won by individual play. L ook at teams like Montreal, and Washington who in past years have had so much talent, but could not make playoff runs due to egos. Or even better let's go to the national stage and look at a team like the Russian national team who can never seem to overcome that kind of individualistic style of play.
I digress though, why would the NHL feel the need to allow 40% of games that go to overtime go into a shootout which makes up 14% of how games end. On one side I can see how it makes the game better because it shows how parallel the league is, but on the flip-side if you can't appreciate a fast paced overtime that decides a winner, or even a well played game that ends in a tie you need to reevaluate why you enjoy hockey. Its like fans of Premier League soccer, you don't see them crying for a shootout to decide a winner when Man U. and Manchester City end in a 0-0 tie per se. They understand that both teams were evenly matched and that sometimes all you can do is appreciate the outcome of a tie in a hard fought battle.
We are already seeing the AHL adopt a new OT format. The AHL plays a four on four three minute OT session, and if the game is not decided it goes to three on three play for four minutes. If there is no winner after that it moves to a shootout. How has this been working for the AHL? Well, the numbers are quite staggering. 76% of games have been decided when they do in fact go into the new OT format, while 24% percent remain decided in the shootout. The 76% OT decision rate is up a whopping 40% since last year for the AHL. With results like that what does the NHL, and fans of the NHL have to gripe about for at least allowing overtime the chance to properly decide a game? Games will still go to overtime, and possibly the shootout, which is still exciting. At the end of the day for fans it is still free hockey, and exciting hockey at that. More games will be decided by real hockey, and if it's not, the excitement of the shootout will still be there. The goal however is to have games decided by real hockey play, and not a breakaway challenge. Call me old-school all you want, but that is how games should be decided.