One Change in the NHL: Thoughts on goaltending and gameplay

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Former Hawks D-man Erik Gustafsson believes that the puck-over-the-boards penalty should be changed.  Right now it's a penalty if a player throws the puck into the stands from the defensive zone. Gustafsson would like to see that extended all the way to center ice.

    Former Hawks D-man Erik Gustafsson believes that the puck-over-the-boards penalty should be changed. Right now it's a penalty if a player throws the puck into the stands from the defensive zone. Gustafsson would like to see that extended all the way to center ice. Associated Press File Photo

 
 
Updated 4/11/2020 6:23 PM

Third in a series

With the NHL on hiatus due to COVID-19, we thought this would be a good time to rerun our One Change in the NHL series that ran in January 2019.

 

Today's topic revolves around gameplay and goalie issues.

• Former Blackhawks' netminder Cam Ward wanted the trapezoid behind the net eliminated. "There's an art and a skill as a goaltender to be able to play the puck behind the net and not feel like you're teetering along the lines of a penalty.

"Also, D-men in this league feel a lot of pressure. The game is really fast and they take a lot of hits behind the net. Goalies playing the puck can probably prevent a lot of that."

Dietz's thoughts: Why not? I like Ward's reasoning, but can also see some entertaining moments when a goalie ventures too far from his net and is hung out to dry. He thinks there's more time than there is, a forward charges in, steals the puck and dishes to a wide-open teammate for an easy goal.

•  Devan Dubnyk of the Minnesota Wild wanted 3-on-3 overtime stats for goalies to become a separate category. He believes a goalie that plays in 15 to 20 OTs is at a "huge disadvantage" stats-wise compared to one who plays in 10 or fewer.

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"Every shot in overtime is pretty much a Grade-A chance," Dubnuk said. "So you're not comparing what a typical good save percentage (or goals-against average) would be. In overtime, every 4 or 5 shots (might be) going in. Not every 12, 13, 14 shots."

Dietz's thoughts: I remember thinking about Dubnyk's suggestion early this season after Robin Lehner lost in OT in his first appearance with the Blackhawks. Lehner saved 30 of 32 shots in regulation for a .938 save percentage and 2.00 goals-against average. Forty-seven seconds into overtime, Mark Scheifele gave Winnipeg a 3-2 victory. It dumped Lehner's save percentage down to a much-less-impressive .909 and raised his GAA to 2.96.

Create a couple of extra rows for each goalie and you've solved the problem.

•  Former Hawks D-man Erik Gustafsson believes that the puck-over-the-boards penalty should be changed.

Right now it's a penalty if a player throws the puck into the stands from the defensive zone. Gustafsson would like to see that extended all the way to center ice.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I've been on the ice when guys are tired, they go over their own blue line and they just flip it up," he said. "In the playoffs two years ago in Sweden, guys did it all the time."

Dietz's thoughts: I saw Jonathan Toews do this once after a rough second-period stretch at the United Center late in the season. It's not a very common move, however, so the rule is probably best left alone.

•  Minnesota's Zach Parise and former Hawks forward Jamal Mayers believe a player should have to control the puck before advancing it into the offensive zone.

Said Parise: "They've got to do something where you can't just slap the puck up the ice, tip it in and go forecheck. ... For people to be able stand behind their own net, take a slap shot up the wall and let someone tip it, it just takes the skill out of the game. If you have to carry it up, there's going to be more turnovers and more scoring chances the other way."

Dietz's thoughts: I can see both sides here. While this change would almost certainly increase scoring, it has the potential to dramatically increase icing calls. And nothing grinds this fabulous sport to a halt more than faceoff after faceoff after faceoff.

• Vegas D-man Nate Schmidt thinks the NHL should take a page out of the NFL rule book and make a play onside as soon as the puck touches the white when it goes over the offensive blue line.

"Right now the puck has to be fully over," Schmidt said. "I think it would make things so much easier. ... Just like a goal line -- a guy breaks the plane and puts the ball over -- it should be onside."

Dietz's thoughts: I don't have an opinion one way or the other on this. But what did I tell you all two days ago about the wide variety of ideas players had? Impressive, isn't it?

• Predators forward Ryan Hartman wants there to be a time limit on replays.

"If it's not clearly obvious in 30 seconds, leave the call as is," Hartman said. "You can sit there and slow stuff down -- go frame by frame -- for two minutes and eventually you're going to think you're seeing something."

Dietz's thoughts: Thirty seconds seems a bit fast, but I'd be OK with a 90 in most instances. The one review that should last as long as needed is when you are trying to determine if the puck has completely crossed the goal line. The officials need to get those calls correct every time.

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