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The NHL shootout must go

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO,

Times Staff Writer

The shootout must go. It is an argument that will fall on deaf ears. The fans love it, and if the fans love it, the league loves it, too. But after what happened Thursday in the Lightning's shootout loss to the Avalanche, it should be clear the shootout is evil.

Start with this: It is a gimmick, and a gimmick should never determine who wins and loses a game. Earlier this season, the Lightning and Senators needed eight rounds to decide a winner. That is not a test of skill; it is a coin flip and a disservice to players who knocked themselves out for the previous 65 minutes.

Then there was Thursday. Lightning goaltender Mike Smith was called for throwing his stick during Milan Hejduk's shootout try. Colorado was awarded an automatic goal despite Smith's brilliant sprawling save; the Avalanche won the shootout 1-0 and the game 2-1.

Forget whether it was the right call. No one who really appreciates hockey can believe that was a satisfying outcome: a game determined by a goal that never happened.

I understand the league not wanting ties — that whole kissing-your-sister thing. But had Thursday ended 1-1, that would have been fine. Had the game against the Senators ended 2-2, no problem. In both, the teams battled, skated hard, got great goaltending, missed scoring chances, hit posts, worked their butts off.

That kind of effort gives satisfaction, and that is the essence of hockey, not a series of one-on-one confrontations that renders meaningless the teamwork and effort that so define the game.

The extra point is nice for the winner, but in the bigger picture, how it is gained cheapens what came before. Play a five-minute, four-on-four overtime with an extra point for an overtime win and leave it at that.

Maybe you kiss your sister now and then. It's better than swallowing something so unappetizing.

The NHL shootout must go 12/20/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 4:47pm]

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