The 2011-2012 Los Angeles Kings should pay homage to the NHL’s 2004 lockout rule changes, as the Holy Grail-lifting outfit scraped and clawed their way into last season’s playoffs on the back of 15 overtime/shootout losses.
That’s not, in any way shape or form, meant to diminish the Kings’ accomplishment. Their breathtaking late-season form saw the lads from LA LA Land manhandle all comers en route to an unprecedented 10-1 playoff away record.
Implemented to amp excitement, four-on-four overtime sessions and subsequent decisive shootouts have unarguably transformed, in certain arenas, docile fans into ravenous bloodthirsty fanatics. Tearing them from their glutinous, imprinted seats, supporters have found reason to stand, scream, shout and let it all out. (My sincerest apologies for referencing the latest Britney Spears song.)
But other than elevated fan interest, have the tiebreaker rule changes made a staggering difference to the league and the complexion of its playoff picture?
Until last year not earthshakingly so, but exceptions still warrant a closer look.
Five other teams, in addition to the 2011-2012 Stanley-Cup winning Kings, would have been forced to hit the links before the puck dropped on their respective playoff campaigns had it not been for the consolation point’s 2005 introduction: The 2005-2006 Edmonton Oilers (the only other finalist), the 2006-2007 New York Islanders, the 2006-2007 Calgary Flames, the 2007-2008 Boston Bruins and the 2011-2012 Southeast division champion Florida Panthers.
The aforementioned six teams, however, may have radically altered their strategy during overtime, perhaps ineffectively employing a run-and-gun style in search of an invaluable bonus point.
Tactically and hypothetically speaking, it’s easy to find value in pining for regulation draws, especially away from home. It guarantees both teams a point, which could eventually be enough to pole-vault a tenuously positioned squad into the postseason.
At closer look, however, trends before and after the infamous 2004 lockout are rather indistinguishable, rebuking the play-for-a-regulation-draw sentiment.
According to NHL.com, an average of 284 games in the seven seasons prior to the 2004 lockout went into overtime, compared to 288 games in as many post-lockout seasons.
Word on the street suggests some traditional hockey puritans irrefutably loath the tiebreaking amendments, while other more contemporary fans relish the pulsating, high-octane on-ice product. Regardless of which side of the fence you may sit, the Kings, as disconcerting and sacrilegious as it may sound, owe Gary Bettman and his revenue-hungry litigious crew a sip, albeit a brief one, from Lord Stanley’s Cup.
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)