The New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils played an outstanding game last night. Usually when there's a hotly contested game, people say: "It's a shame someone had to lose." Well, as I watched the minutes in overtime slip away, I thought "It's a shame someone has to score."
And so, after 65 minutes, 96 saves, and great play by both teams, someone did. In the fourth round of the shootout, Patrik Elias beat Henrik Lundqvist and the Devils took home a 1-0 victory.
Maybe I'm in the minority on this, but this game was the prime example of why I hate shootouts.
Look, there are two main reasons why people defend the shootout. And neither of them seems to make a lot of sense to me.
1) The shootouts are exciting
Well, of course they are. It's nothing but breakaways. Breakaways are exciting. They lead to goals, which are also exciting.
But frankly, the shootout paled in comparison to this game. If you couldn't get excited over the first 65 minutes of this game, then you're going to find yourself disappointed a lot. How could two great goaltenders going mano-a-mano for 65 minutes and turning down shot after shot be boring? It's not like the teams didn't get chances.
The Rangers took 51 shots. The Devils had 45.You got to see arguably the best goaltender of all time (Brodeur) turn in a vintage performance against Lundqvist; one of the league's better goalies, and one of his rivals to boot.
The idea that shootouts provide needed excitement to games is flawed because it essentially says that any game that were to end in a tie would be lacking in excitement. This is simply not the case.
2) We pay our hard-earned money to see a game and we want to see a winner!
I understand this argument. I don't agree with it, but I understand it. Games are expensive to go to, and we deserve to have one team win.
The problem is it again seems to boil down to this idea that somehow a tied game is missing something and the only cure would be the next goal.
Why can't a tie be a game worth attending? I saw the Rangers tie the Devils in 1999. Scott Gomez had a hat-trick. The Rangers rallied from a 3-1 deficit to earn a point. It was exciting. It's not like the game ceased to be worthwhile because the clock ran out with the game knotted at three.
Overall, the main problem I have with shootouts is they're not really what hockey's about. There are countless other things that go into a hockey game besides breakaways.
Part of the reason breakaways are exciting is because they're so rare. They don't just magically appear. Lots of things have to happen on both sides for a clean breakaway to occur. There was one in the game tonight, and Martin Brodeur stopped it. It was exciting.
Think about the other three major U.S. sports. What's the most exciting aspect of it? Would you be okay if the leagues decided to end tied games using them and only them?
Would the NFL be better served just having teams throw a Hail Mary until one of them connects? Would Major League Baseball be better if games turned into a Home-Run derby, or a scenario where runners tried to score on a play at the plate over and over? What about if teams took half-court shots in basketball?
There's a reason none of the other leagues do this. The NHL's alone in completely changing the nature of the sport just to determine a winner.
Besides, if shootouts are so exciting and crucial to enjoying a game, why doesn't the NHL use them in the playoffs? I mean, if you're looking for excitement, what could be more exciting than a shootout in Game seven of the Finals? They'll play till five in the morning, and players will sweat 20 pounds away, but they won't go to a shootout. If it's not good enough to determine the most important game in the sport, why use it at all?
Well, in May, perhaps they'll get the chance, but frankly the Rangers and Devils deserved better tonight.