All the talk around the NHL the past day or two has been the exciting Marik Malik goal to win the game on the 15th shooter for the NY Rangers. Almost everyone is talking about how exciting the shootout is and how, for that reason, it is here to stay. Some are even going to say that the shootout will soon come to playoff hockey. I say, let’s not get carried away.
Take it from the tired legs of people who were at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, stood at the start of the shootout, never sat down and were jumping when the Rangers won the thing in the 15th round. –Mark Herrmann
As someone who watched the whole shootout let me say that yes, it was entertaining. But just because something is entertaining, doesn’t mean it is a good way to end a hockey game. Watching a hockey fight is entertaining too but no one ever suggests settling hockey games that way. Why? Because entertaining or not it just isn’t hockey. It would hurt the integrity of the sport to resolve a game that way. The whole argument of deciding a hockey game one way over another because of entertainment value is just plain bogus. There are lots of things that I find entertaining, many much more entertaining than a shootout, but I wouldn’t ever suggest deciding a hockey game that way. Hockey is a team game, not an individual game. Hockey game should not be decided by a fight, or a shootout or any other individual skills competition.
But even if entertainment value is what we are going for, can anyone suggest that the 5 minute overtime was not entertaining? The Rangers had 6 shots in that overtime and they had to kill a full 2 minute penalty as well. Was that not entertaining? Having watched the overtime I can confidently say, yes, it definitely was. It was certainly more entertaining than watching Maxime Kondratiev and Tomas Fleischmann make feeble attempts at scoring in the shootout. I am sure no one out there is desperately waiting for the day when they can see these too guys take another penalty shot in the shoot out. And you simply cannot convince me that fans would be less excited had the Rangers scored in overtime than in the shootout to win. Had Malik, or anyone else, scored a between the legs goal like that in overtime, would still be talking about how amazing the goal was? You bet we would.
So what would be an appropriate way to end the game. Well, first off I think I need to say that ties aren’t a bad thing, so long as they are relatively rare. According to my count there have been 69 games that went to overtime with 34 of those decided in overtime and the other 35 decided in the shootout. What if we extended overtime to 10 minutes? Doing that I suspect we could get rid of the majority of tie games without attacking the integrity of the game by resolving the game by a skills competition. With the increased scoring in the NHL, I think a 10 minute overtime would result in relatively few ties and those can just go into the record books as a well deserved tie. There is nothing wrong with that and it certainly isn’t as bad as deciding a team game on an individual skills competition.