Thursday, April 12, 2007

4 overtimes are bad for your health

If you don't think that the NHL needs to tweak, or possibly even blow up and re-invent, playoff overtime, you didn't watch last night's NHL playoffs. I know this might be heresy to hockey purists, but last night's (Or should I say this morning's) 4 OT Canucks - Stars snoozefest was, to put it bluntly, boring.

Yes, I watched. And watched, and watched...Till my eyes finally betrayed me at 3:25 am. I was rudely woken by Dave Strader's call of the winning goal for Vancouver at 3:30 am. That's not a typo, 3:30 am EDT. I didn't get much sleep, but at least I now know where Versus is on my cable system.

You would think that playoff OT would be thrilling. But once it gets past a certain point, usually not long into the 1st OT, both teams start playing it safe. Extremely safe. The hockey turns conservative to a fault. Sure, there was a post hit a time or 2 during the OT's, but true scoring chances were few and far between. There were a handful of power plays, but even those didn't add much excitement to the proceedings. Odd man rushes were impossible, as no one would take even the slightest chance, in fear of making the mistake that could cost them the game.

Both teams playing not to lose leads to long stretches of monotony, mixed in with short bursts of dullness.

Do I believe that the NHL should go to the regular season 4 on 4, 5 minute long OT, and then a shootout? No, as I honestly think shootouts are not the right way to decide a playoff game. I find it kind of silly that soccer allows their premier event, the World Cup, to end with a shootout, and the same goes for international and Olympic hockey.

But going 4 on 4, with normal length periods? That could work. There is no way you would have 4 additional periods of tedious hockey, played mostly between the blues lines, with both teams shorthanded. I'm sure there are other solutions, but I'm too damn tired to think of any...

I'm not saying that all OT hockey is awful. Unfortunately, excitement can be squeezed right out of a game by the massive pressure of OT. It's the one downside to what may be the most hotly contested playoffs in all of sport.

1 comment:

  1. In addition to the conservative tactics, there's also the fatigue factor. I didn't watch last night's marathon, but often in multiple OTs, the players start looking positively bedraggled. They appear to be physically incapable of a breakaway. Often, you'll see some action in the first few minutes of an OT period, and then the players settle back on their heels. It's sort of like a boxing match where the two fighters are leaning against the ropes on opposite sides of the ring, occasionally waving their fists at each other.

    Also, the refs usually pocket their whistles in playoff OT, so there tends to be a lot more clutching, grabbing and hooking.