During the NHL lockout of 2004-2005, Brendan Shannahan and the NHL’s competition committee got together at a rink in suburban Toronto to run scrimmages and experiment with several potential rule changes. The purpose was to investigate ways to get away from the New Jersey/Minnesota style clutch-and-grab sleepwalk hockey that killed the NHL’s ratings and drove defensive centers’ salaries over $9,000,000 (Bobby Holik anyone?). Even though the lockout was in full swing and NHLPA spokesman Bob Goodenow and commissioner Gary Bettman were jousting with more ferocity than Mitt Romney and Rick Perry have been lately, Shannahan and the committee plowed ahead as if there was going to be hockey. The blue line was moved two feet back and the red goal line was moved two feet the other direction, thus giving the offensive zone four more feet of space. The trapezoid was created to prevent goalies like Marty Turco and Martin Brodeur from moving the puck and killing opposing teams’ fore checks. The much-loathed shootout was instilled as a way to create a winner for every game and eliminate the equally (or more) loathed tie. Aside from the annual omen of cracking down on obstruction hooking, the last rule change was that players must stay on the ice after they iced the puck.
At the time, the icing rule seemed like just another minor tweak that would benefit the game. However, former Blues coach Joel Quennville was interviewed just prior to the start of the 2005-2006 season and stated that the new rule was going to be the biggest difference maker in the game.
Midway through the second period of the Blues and Hurricanes game last night, the Blues were stuck in their own zone. In his first game returning from a concussion, Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo was clearly out of gas as were the other four Blues players on the ice. Carolina was cycling the puck and at one point the Blues almost cleared the zone, but veteran Blues forward Alex Steen turned the puck over at the blue line and Carolina kept coming. Not only did they keep coming, they had just completed a partial line change. While they had possession of the puck low in the zone, they finished their line change and had five fresh players on the ice. The Blues players had been on the ice for over 90 seconds. An average NHL shift is 45 to 50 seconds. The Blues were in serious trouble because the game was two to one at the time and Carolina could have easily put the game out of reach. Davis Payne waited as long as possible to call time out and nearly missed it, but that was the defining moment of last night’s win. Yes, Dagostini had an excellent game winner off of a defensive misread, but the game would have been over with another one in the “L” column five minutes earlier if the Blues didn’t dodge a bullet halfway through the second.
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Written by Patrick McLellan