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CARLTON PEAK… Ever since the advent of the NHL Shootout, put in place to end the number of games in the league that ended in ties on the scoreboard, there has been a solid core of fans and media types against its use. I do believe they are outnumbered, but they are vocal nonetheless. I cringe whenever a shootout is about to begin and the people calling the game, be it on TV or radio refer to it as the “skills competition” part of the game, with their voices dripping with derision. Personally, I’ve never been to a game that went into a shootout whereby every single fan in the stands was not standing and cheering pretty energetically. It IS an exciting part of the game to see, no matter what some fans or media think. As far as it being a skills competition, that’s not incorrect, I would only add that Ice Hockey requires skill in regulation, overtime, or shootout, so trying to cast the shootout as some type of negative factor in a game doesn’t work in my view. It is merely a way to decide a hotly contested game that couldn’t be within a specific time allotment.
I would also point out that in the Minnesota NorthStars 26 seasons in The State of Hockey, they played in 2,062 regular season games in an era where after a 5 minute OT, the game ended in a tie. The NorthStars had 334 tie games in those 26 years, or in 16% of their games. That means that 334 times the fans went home with the same result as when they arrived for the game they just shelled out hard earned money for; a tie. Too much of the pre-shootout era had become predictable though. In a regular season game that was tied with 10 minutes or less remaining in the game, both teams began to play for the sure point they would get for the tie, especially if you were the visitor. That was like a win for the road club in those days. I groaned every time I left a game that ended like this, feeling much like I didn’t get my money’s worth. The league was right to institute the shootout and as far as I’m concerned those that don’t like it must have not been around or alive during the “tie game” era.
I only bring this up because some of the same media and fans that don’t care for the shootout as a means to get a result in a game are the same folks that think the current “lacrosse” style goal in hockey is just fine. I don’t. It is called a lacrosse goal because it derives from that sport, not from hockey. I saw my first game in the very early sixties and started to play it shortly after. The hockey stick has never been used as anything other than a means to propel the puck on the ice, or to another player, or toward the goal in an attempt to score. It has never before, until recently, been used as a device or as a means to carry the puck while skating. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike Lacrosse. It has long been popular in Canada, and over the past 20 years or so has accelerated in popularity in the States. But in spite of its similarities, it isn’t hockey, and should not be allowed to encroach into the game. Call me a hockey purist if you wish, you would be exactly correct.
I understand the skill involved and applaud those that can perform it. I’ve seen guys do it in practice, especially the younger players, they are fascinated by it. Doing it at game speed is incredibly hard. Years back I could put a puck on the goal line and put it in off the crossbar. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t pull off the lacrosse goal. No matter, it has no place in hockey. There exists no rule or regulation against it at this point in the NHL rulebook, and I would strongly urge the league to install one at the next Board of Governors meetings. Their game is called “Lacrosse”, our game is called “Hockey”. Nuff’ said…
THE MINNESOTA WILD went 2-1 last week and continue to defy analyst and fan logic. How are they getting this done? I wrote last week that between then and the end of January was going to be a crucial stretch for the team if they desired to get a playoff berth. They had emerged from a very poor start and one of the most challenging early season schedules I can ever recall seeing. They had a Wild Card spot within reach in mid December only to fall back, But they have continued to battle and with no separation occurring yet in the standings, are still very much in the mix. But I also had to take pause last week and look at the upcoming timeframe up until the All-Star break and the teams bye. It’s challenging to say the least.
In the teams favor is that the toughest part of their schedule is out of the way. They have played over half of their road schedule now at 24 games, leaving 17 roadies, and 25 at home. For the stretch coming up before February 1st they will have 8 tilts on home ice and 2 on the road. Having only 9 games in a 31 day month should do wonders for this club. Tomorrow eve on New Years Eve, they will face the suddenly hot Maple Leafs and it will not get easier after that. All 9 games in January will be tough, even the one against the league’s cellar dweller Detroit. There are no gimme’s in the NHL anymore, they are long gone.
Last week the boys won in St. Paul against the Calgary Flames 3-0, then went out to Denver and surprised me by hanging on for a 6-4 win in a seesaw battle against the tough Av’s squad, but then yesterday afternoon against the NY Isles, in a mostly kind of lethargic game, they took a 1-0 lead into the 3rd only to drop a 3-1 decision to the Isles. The Wild’s hockey legs missed the flight back from out West… PEACE & HAPPY NEW YEAR!
WILD DATA; The ATHLETIC, 20th, trending for 89 pts w/a 42% shot at the playoffs, 1% chance for a Cup. The SAGARIN, 21st on a 19-21 record, 4-8 vs top ten, 7-13 vs top 16 w/a sched difficulty of 4th. NHL STANDINGS, 5th in the Central on a 19-16-5 record for 43 pts. 10-3-3 @ H, 9-13-2 @A. 5-4-1 in L10, streak of 1L. 4th in West Wild Card position, 2 pts out. 14th/GF/124, 28th/GA/132, -8 diff, 21st/PP/17.5%, 24th/PK/78.1%, 12th in PIM’s @ 319. Have a GREAT 2020! OVER & OUT!