The NHL says no directive has been issued for officials to keep a close eye on too many men on the ice infractions but you wouldn't know it one week into the playoffs.
11 times in the opening round teams have been penalized for 'Too Many men on the ice.' That means such penalties are being called at twice the regular season rate: one for every two-and-a-half games in the post-season versus one for every five games during the regular season. According to NHL coaches polled, there are a number of reasons for the league-wide trend.
Matchups: Considered number one as playoff coaches scramble to balance what their opposition has on the ice. As one coach says, "Some players drift mentally under pressure and are not focused." Another possibility, and this one bugs most coaches, the 50 foot stick in the air, "I'm coming," lazy change.
Vancouver's Kevin Bieksa didn't have his stick in the air when the Canucks got tagged, but he did take his time in completing the change. In light of the trend, NHL coaches say teams are also using the potential for a call as a tactic.
Teams who carry the puck, or play the puck up the bench side are often times also trying to invite the call. Game four between the Flyers and Devils provided one of the many examples of this. The intensity of the playoffs definitely has an impact and can complicate even something as routine as a line change. However, according to one of his coaching disciples, Scotty Bowman, the winningest coach in NHL history, used to practice line changes and match ups all the time in the regular season, in preparation for the playoffs. This postseason demonstrates why he did it.
Update: Through 31 first round games, 16 penalties have been called for too many men on the ice, or one every two games.
16 penalties is one fewer than the 17 total calls made through 87 Stanley Cup playoff games last season.
Four more penalties were assessed last night, including the big one against the Buffalo Sabres which led to Boston's Miro Satan scoring the Game 4 winner in double overtime on the powerplay.