SI.com's Michael Farber writes that the New York Rangers lost the final Eastern Conference playoff berth to Philadelphia on Sunday because of a gimmick, to which we say: Boo and hoo.
The problem for the Rangers is not that they were squeezed out of the eighth spot by a dodgy system, but that they ran out of their own wiggle room in a season that was lost by indifferent play for the middle four months. Yes, the shootout remains a gimmick, but only because the NHL hasn't truly committed to the exercise since its introduction after the 2004-05 lockout.
If it had faith in the shootout, the NHL would increase the number of shooters to make it more of a team exercise. Then the league would ditch the loser point in favor of a fan-friendly, transparent standing table that reads W, L and maybe GB. And if it truly trusted the shootout, we will eventually see it in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Feel free to cringe, but this is where the 21st century is heading. Life should move fast, to borrow from umpire Cowboy Joe West, so how much of a good playoff hockey game is too much? Three overtimes? Four? A Keith Primeau five? If somebody scores at 2:05 a.m. and nobody is awake to see it, is it still a classic?
It also is viewed as a legitimate game-ender in World Cup soccer, except for Italy's Roberto Baggio in 1994. (Spare me a basketball analogy. Those overtimes are five minutes, not one-third of a regulation game.) So cheers to a more robust shootout. After one or maybe two overtime periods of the standard five-on-five, the NHL should again revisit the idea of a four-on-four playoff overtime period. And in the unlikely event that three overtimes (an entire extra game) don't produce a winner, turn five shooters loose to decide matters.