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Shootouts have too big of an effect on NHL playoff races

I hate the shootout. To end a game with a gimmick is a disservice to players who spent the previous 65 minutes, including five minutes of four-on-four overtime, knocking themselves out.

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That said, we're probably stuck with it because the league and fans love it; the league because it eliminates ties it believes people dislike, and fans get a dramatic one-on-one confrontation.

But with shootouts up this season — 73 of this season's first 408 games (17.9 percent) ended with shootouts compared to 12.9 percent all last season — they are having a big impact on playoff races.

In fact, Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said he believes shootout winners should get only 1.5 points in the standings rather than two.

"A lot of teams are losing playoff position because they're not good at shootouts," he said.

This, of course, from someone whose team is 4-15 in shootouts going back to last season.

The issue sparked a fun debate during last week's road trip among media that follow the Lightning.

I said I didn't mind ties. Some said overtime or shootout losers shouldn't get any points. Some said overtime winners should get two points, shootout winners one.

The most interesting suggestion to produce decisions without cheapening games with shootouts was for a 10-minute four-on-four overtime followed by a 10-minute three-on-three, the second 10 minutes almost guaranteed to produce a goal but kind-of gimmicky as well.

"Then 10 minutes two-on-two?" Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara laughed. "It would be kind of too much. Four-on-four is pretty intense, and if you take away another guy, it's even more skating."

Players said that isn't practical during a long season of back-to-back games and excessive travel.

Which brought us back to shootouts.

"For us it's fine," Chara said. "If you need to play 65 minutes, you have plenty of time to make the result different. 'Okay, we did our best. Now let's see who has the best skill players to see who wins the game.' "

I still hate it.

Shootouts have too big of an effect on NHL playoff races 12/05/09 [Last modified: Saturday, December 5, 2009 7:08pm]
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