Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Ready, Aim, Fire...Wide.

Last night was a record night for the NHL, with 5 of the 13 games being decided in a shootout - an all-time high.

And by all-time, I mean...the last season and a half.

Still, it's a pretty staggering number. Almost half of the games on one night had to be decided in a shootout, with another being decided in overtime. What does that mean? Does it show that parity is really here, that all teams are so equal that you need what is essentially a gimmick to decide the winner? Is it just a coincidence, that teams that are equally good (or in the case of the Washington-Boston game last night, equally bad) happen to meet all at once?

It's been almost two full seasons now since the lockout, with all that that implies - "tighter" interference calls, the forbidden trapezoid, and of course the shootout. I don't know what the feeling is around here, but from my experience it seems that your average rabid hockey fan absolutely hates the shootout...myself included. I'll admit, I get swept up in the excitment of it all; it's a very thrilling experience, especially live. I'll happily celebrate a win in the shootout, as rare as they may be for my boys, and take the two points in any way, shape or form they may come in.

But as so many coaches and players and fans and pundits and casual observers have said, it's a skills competition that essentially determines the outcome of the game. A team could struggle through, catching the occasional lucky bounce that keeps them on the scoreboard or relying on a hot goaltender to carry them through - then throw out some skilled sniper to win it all one-on-one. Is that really something that playoff positioning should rely on? There's a reason the playoffs, at least for now, won't have shootouts to determine the outcome.

Of course, it's very easy to rant about this without offering a solution. That's why I'm doing it. I don't know what the alternative is other than to return to the possibility of a tie game as an end result. For what it's worth, those 1-1 ties used to be some of the most exciting games of the season, and the score reflected the battle that had ensued. In trying to be showier, flashier, the NHL has taken some of the hockey out of hockey games and replaced it with a circus act.

And I'm not just complaining because the Caps lost in a shootout last night...I swear. ;)


Paige said...

All I knew was that the Sabres won in a shootout. Miller saves us once again...

hockeygirl said...

I hate shoot-outs. Shoot-outs make me want to poke my eyes out. Maybe it's because Kipper has yet to stop a shoot-out shot this season.

Brit said...

I hate shootouts even with a goalie who is near perfect (yay Holmqvist). I also, however, have felt the pain of being on the losing end of shootouts a lot (where does Kipper go in the SO?). I would rather see games end in a tie and each get 1 point than the shootout. It seems wrong to me that a goalie can get a shutout (a full 65 minutes shutout), and still lose the game... it just isn't right.

Paige said...

I love shootouts, but at the same time I hate them... I get so nervous and excited that I go for a little run around the house The good news for me is, the Sabres have dear Ryan Miller, who is just so darn patient it makes me crazy, but it always works. We hardly ever lose in a shootout! Yay us!