Since the recent Rangers – Capitals series finished, the talk of the hockey world has revolved around players blocking shots. From Larry Brooks of the New York Post stating that blocking shots “…has made the game less entertaining,” to Rory Boylen of The Hockey News saying, “Nothing about this year’s shot-blocking is new.” Is this starting to sound familiar to anyone? Remember, it was about this time last year the whining about the Tampa Bay Lightning Playing the 1-3-1 (or trap) was ruining hockey.
So during last year’s playoffs, it was the trap (which has not been talked about since, that is until the Flyers decided to stop playing the fateful day in Tampa Bay) and during this year’s playoffs it is shot blocking. What is it that these apparent enemies of the sport have in common? They are both defensive tactics in nature, which coupled with the unreasonably growing fear of the Dead Puck Era returning, any defensive based tactic becomes an afront to the Hockey Gods.
I have watched just about every Stanley Cup playoff game this season and have enjoyed each and every one of them. Sure I have a few games that I hold above the rest, but to claim that hockey is becoming less entertaining because someone is willing to get in the way of a puck coming from the point off the stick of Zdeno Chara or Shea Weber, ridiculous. Instead of getting torqued that a goal is not being scored every five minutes or so, focus that energy on continuing the discussion on player safety (which only a handful of columnists have referenced when discussing shot blocking), talk about whether or not visors should be mandatory, it would at least be a more worthwhile dialogue.
From among the Dead-Puck-Fear induced fury, little has been stated as to how the league should address it, though one suggestion does have some merit to it. Without banning all of shot blocking, it would involve implementing a rule banning the skater laying flat out on the ice to block. If that is where this leads to (though I highly doubt it, the 1-3-1 has yet to be banned), fine by me, however it would give the referees one more call to flub up (apparently hand-passes are legal now, just ask Del Zotto).
Are shot blocking and the trap really the greatest threat to the game? If you ask me, right now it is the gentlemen wearing the black and white stripes.
- Jim Courteau
Follow me on Twitter @BlackSheepJim