The New York Rangers and Washington Capitals provided the latest demonstration of why the NHL needs to use the shootout in overtime. The Rangers and Caps played into the third overtime before Marian Gaborik scored the game-winner for New York in a 2-1 final.
I know hockey purists don’t like the shootout because they feel it’s gimmicky. But is it really less authentic than having exhausted players skate around interminably just hoping a puck finds the back of the net? The style of play in any sport evolves as the game goes on, so I don’t see the problem with a shootout. I certainly wouldn’t go to it as quickly as in the regular season, where the teams only play a five-minute overtime. Playoff hockey should have at least a full 20-minute OT session before we settle it this way, but the shootout is an exciting way to end a game. And you can’t tell me there weren’t large numbers of fans for both teams—those with a vested rooting interest in who won the game—who didn’t just secretly want somebody to score and end this thing. That should never happen and a shootout can stop it.
Now, on to New York’s win itself. You’ll notice I mentioned Gaborik scoring the OT goal. He also had an assist to Ryan Callahan on a power play goal in the second period. The absence of Gaborik from the offense has been a prominent of theme of TheSportsNotebook’s discussion of New York’s playoff run. He got involved with seven shots—given the fact this was almost two full games played, that’s as dramatic as it might otherwise be, but Gaborik was more involved, and more effective when he was.
The Western Conference semifinal game got settled early as Nashville got two early goals off Phoenix and it stood up the rest of the way in a 2-0 win. Predator goalie Pekka Rinne returned to his outstanding form of the regular season and in the first round as he turned back the Coyotes on a night they didn’t play badly on offense. Phoenix generated 32 shots on Rinne and most of their key frontline people—Radim Vrbata and Shane Doan primarily—were involved in the attack. But Rinne did what a goalie has to do and just put a team on his back.
Nashville still trails Phoenix 2-1 in games, while New York has a 2-1 lead over Washington. The other two semi-final series have their Game 3s tonight…
*St. Louis goes to Los Angeles desperate for a win, having dropped the first two at home. The Kings have Dustin Brown playing like he’s Wayne Gretzky—okay, that might be a little extreme, but what other King great can I compare him too? The Blues win by keeping games tight and playing sound defense, so there will be a lot of nervous moments for their fans tonight, but given the team’s style of play its imperative they not confuse urgency with panic.
*New Jersey and Philadelphia take their contrast in styles to Meadowlands. If the Flyers get 30 shots a game, that’s too much for Martin Brodeur to handle at this stage of his career, and against the quality of talent in the Philly offense. But the New Jersey defense coalesced in front of their goaltender for Game 2 and has to do the same again tonight.