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Four rivalry matchups will kick start the 2014-15 NHL regular season schedule tonight as all 30 teams firmly set their gaze on a Stanley Cup-winning season. In a league that has enjoyed considerable parity over the past number of seasons just securing a spot in the post-season will be a challenge for several teams. Points are hard to come by and shootout wins can sometimes be the difference between a team going on in mid-April or just simply going home!
While the league's competition committee has 'tinkered' with the playing rules to make some minor changes - primarily in an effort to generate more offence – here's my perspective on adjustment of the shootout process and increase the odds of determining a winner in the overtime period.
I'm thrilled with the elimination of the 'spin-o-rama' move from the shootout process. The circus atmosphere reserved for the All-Star Game's skills competition had no rightful place in determining the eventual winning team in the regular season. A clear unfair advantage was granted to the shooter over the goalkeeper.
The move, which I first saw introduced by Bobby Orr and later perfected by Denis Savard at high speed, is without question a skilled move. The difference here, however, is that these gents performed the move in close quarters with the possibility of being checked by an opponent; none of which exists during a penalty shot or shootout.
The longstanding rule whereby the puck must be kept in forward motion toward the goal line often appeared to be violated without consequence. To the naked eye, the puck stopped or even travelled in a backward direction through the spin move or the hard 'stop and go' that some players utilized.
Expanded video review capabilities under Rule 38 will allow a broader discretion to Hockey Operations to determine the legitimacy of all potential goals and can include forward motion of the puck toward the goal line during a penalty shot or shootout. The process should now provide more acceptable legal parameters for the shooter to operate under, pitted against the ability of the goalkeeper to defend.
A change to Rule 84 just might determine the outcome of a tied game before even entering the shootout session. Teams will now switch ends prior to the start of overtime in the regular season following a dry scrape of the ice surface. Fresh ice will surely help to enhance the four-on-four level of play. More importantly, however, is the statistic that more goals are scored in the second period due to the longer change from the players' bench.
I see these as positive changes in determining a winner.
To finish off today's feature, congratulations to veteran linesman Jean Morin for his return to action after missing all of last season due to a serious back injury and surgery. Jean is a top notch linesman and the game is certainly better with his return.
C'mon Ref looks forward to answering your questions beginning Thursday. Let the games begin!