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  • Writer's pictureRick Traugott

"LEAFS LOSE AGAIN!" (in overtime)

I wanted to share one of my pet peeves about modern hockey: regular season overtime and shootouts. I remember the old days when you used to come away from the rink having tied a hockey game in the regular season. Sometimes you felt really good about it, sometimes the tie really sucked. But, it was a regular outcome of a hockey game. Now, heaven forbid we don’t have the excitement of seeing some three on three hockey and maybe even one of those hugely exciting shootouts – which, by the way, is a really crappy way to end a hockey game.

The NHL has it right in the playoffs. You play 5 on 5 REGULAR hockey until someone scores – because it’s the playoffs and you have to have a winner!! I truly don’t understand why you need to have a winner in every game during the regular season.

In the old days, there was often great satisfaction in coming back from a one or two goal deficit and gaining a tie late in the game. Teams felt they truly earned that point, especially if it might have been a weaker team getting that point against a rival team that was higher up in the standings. Now, off we go to the three on three circus followed by the shootout skills competition.

Overtime also gives way to what I see as misleading newspaper headlines. These are all taken from this week’s opening season games that went to overtime: “Seems like old times: Caps fall to Penguins — this time to start the season”, “About Last Night: Analysis of the Carolina Hurricanes’ Loss in Winnipeg”, and my favorite “Matthews' historic 4 goals not enough as Leafs fall to Sens”. My assumption is that they all got beaten pretty badly but NO, they were all overtime losses.

Now, as a casual Leaf fan, I truly get tired of the “Leafs Lose Again” headline that totally negates the fact that they got a point because they lost in overtime. If the Leafs had tied that game the headline would at least have given us the impression that the Leafs had started the season on a pretty good note. This situation also got me thinking that if the Leafs went to overtime in all 82 games this season, win or lose, they would get one point – that’s 82 points over the regular season schedule. If they won 5 of 82 overtime games it would give them 87 points which last year, would have been good enough to make the playoffs in the Western Conference (they would have had to win 11 of those 82 overtime games in the East to make the playoffs). But, the Toronto Star newspaper would have reported 77 times that the Leafs had lost - which most people would equate to a monumentally disastrous season.

Don’t get me wrong, watching he best players in the world play three on three shinny is extremely exciting, but let’s leave that to the NHL all-star game. In fact, I would argue that the teams with the truly skilled stars in the game have a distinct advantage in three on three overtime. In the playoffs, teams need to still play three full units of players. In regular season 5 minute three on three overtime, teams can play their studs for up to 3 minutes. Therefore, teams with a Sidney Crosby, Conner McDavid, or Austin Matthews will always be at an advantage.

As an aside, did you know that the NHL has this rule for overtime in the regular season?

Clubs who pull their goaltender for an extra attacker during the overtime period (other than on a delayed penalty) will be subject to the potential forfeiture of their one (1) point earned for the tie at the end of regulation in the event the opposing team scores into the empty net.

The late Roger Neilson pointed out a major flaw in awarding an extra point to the overtime or shootout winner. His example goes like this:

Let’s say the Leafs are in first place with a two point lead on both the Bruins and the Canadiens in the standings who also both have two games in hand – coincidentally, home and home against each other. If each team wins one game in regulation time, they would both get two points creating a three way tie for first place. If they both won a game in overtime, then they would each get three points (two points for the OT win and one point for the OT loss) therefore relegating the Leafs to third place – a point behind both the Canadiens and the Bruins - which is inherently not fair.

I know I am a small voice in a large crowd but, any time we can avoid regular season overtime and just go with a tie game is just fine with me.

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