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NHL seeks ways to marginalize shootouts

Teddy Purcell said he'd like to see some modification to overtime if only to avoid what happened in 2009-10, when the Flyers won a playoff spot over the Rangers by beating New York in a shootout to end the regular season.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Teddy Purcell said he'd like to see some modification to overtime if only to avoid what happened in 2009-10, when the Flyers won a playoff spot over the Rangers by beating New York in a shootout to end the regular season.

Death to the shootout.

It will not happen, of course. Television demands regular-season games conclude with a winner and a loser, and fans seem to like the game-ending gimmick.

But general managers last week, by seriously talking about extending and modifying overtime, acknowledged they want to end regular-season games by playing the game, not with a glorified skills contest that has no resemblance to the 65 minutes that come before it.

Proposals include extending the five-minute, sudden-death, four-on-four overtime to eight or 10 minutes and, more radically, playing five minutes four-on-four and five minutes three-on-three.

Playing three-on-three, the theory goes, creates more open ice for players to be creative. It also means fewer players to defend if mistakes are made, creating more scoring chances. As Lightning right wing Teddy Purcell joked, "Just another reason for coaches to get mad at you."

But would three-on-three really create a more exciting finish? Lightning coach Jon Cooper isn't so sure. He also made it sound as if three-on-three is a little too close to the gimmick that is the shootout.

"Less guys on the ice doesn't mean more scoring," he said. "I'm not going to say if I'm for or against it, but people would rather watch a hockey game. I'd rather watch a 10-minute four-on-four than a five-minute three-on-three. Three-on-three becomes a guy basically lugging the puck around. There is more room on the ice, but it becomes a one-on-one game. You might as well just go to a shootout. That's a one-on-one game, too."

Said Purcell: "You don't want to make a mistake, so it does turn into a chess match with not a lot of guys taking chances."

Purcell said he'd like to see some modification to overtime if only to avoid what happened in 2009-10, when the Flyers won a playoff spot over the Rangers by beating New York in a shootout in their regular-season finale.

"That," Purcell said, "is a tough way to settle things."

The proposals will get a further airing at March's GM meetings, and Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he would prefer to see a longer four-on-four overtime because he believes four-on-four is "extremely exciting."

Captain Marty St. Louis said perhaps teams should be required to play four-on-four with only one defenseman. From the other side of the locker room, someone suggested three-on-three with no goalies.

That certainly would eliminate the need for shootouts.

NHL seeks ways to marginalize shootouts 11/16/13 [Last modified: Saturday, November 16, 2013 8:24pm]
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