There has to be a more merciful way than 4OT to decide NHL playoff games

Who likes a 4OT playoff hockey game? Seriously, who wants that? ANYONE? Skaters, goalkeepers, referees, fans in the stands, fans in front of the TV? No nobody!

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There has to be another way to determine the winner of an NHL playoff game than after four overtimes.

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Or a total of seven lessons in one evening, with only short breaks to allow participants to rest.

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If you missed it on Thursday night, the Florida Panthers defeated the host Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals. But only seconds remained until the fourth overtime.

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That’s not a typo either – 4 OT.

It was the 15thth Four overtime game in NHL playoff history.

Matthew Tkachuk defeated Canes goalie Frederik Anderson with 13 seconds left in the seventh period of the game.

Epic length? Rather a stupid length. The Canes and Panthers played two and a half games simultaneously.

Game 2 takes place on Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. EDT. It’s not true that every Panther and Hurricane player is tied to an IV bottle strapped to their waist.

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Who likes a 4OT hockey game? Seriously, who wants that? ANYONE? Namely:

  • The players? HA! How many pounds of weight have you lost in total? Must be hundreds.
  • The goalkeepers? Gosh, a former NHL playoff cab squadman says that on Friday, Anderson and Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky would do just about everything they would: sleep, stretch, and rehydrate. And he insists there’s no guarantee either or both could even come on Saturday night.
  • The four match officials who were on the ice every 139 minutes and 47 seconds? No way. You are still snoring at the moment.
  • Fans in the stands? No way. Especially the cruel ones flaunting their cute four year olds.
  • Fans watching live on TV? No way. Clickers practiced Thursday night. No classic sports television network will ever re-broadcast this game in its entirety. Who would even watch all this?!?! Isn’t that a telling comment? Even the most devoted Panthers fan would love it and just rush to the end after the last goal in regulation time.

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Talk about throwing the competitive balance completely off balance. Is it worth it NHL?

Game 1 began just after 8:00 p.m. EDT on Thursday and ended at 1:54 a.m. EDT on Friday. All in all more than 5½ hours.

And that’s not your grandfather’s or your father’s 5½ hours of NHL playoff hockey either. In this century, players are sprinting pretty much all the time, in short, jerky shifts, rather than pacing up and down over long shifts like in the days of the (hands-on-hearts) Original Six.

The Hurricanes and Panthers players must have been gassed outright by the end. Surely that’s why Tkachuk rarely celebrated with his teammates on the ice after he hit the winner. He sped straight through the exit gate and into the Panthers’ locker room. Get me out of here!

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So what is the alternative to endless overtime?

The dreaded gunfight? Maybe after, say, two extensions? It would be a gracious solution, if not nearly a popular one.

How about rethinking the entire structure of the playoff series — from just counting wins up to four, to some sort of scoring system for wins and ties in the first six games of a series (and excluding overtime), with game-only 7 (if required) is present? Endless overtime to determine a winner?

Also, keep in mind that marathon OT games like Thursday night’s don’t seem to be the rarity they once were. There have already been 19 overtime games this playoff season and there are almost two full rounds left.

There just has to be a better, fairer solution than games that work like a Stephen Bishop song – that go on and on – and on and on…


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