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March Madness and Three Pointers

The madness to make the playoff bracket is what most teams are fighting for as another season nears its conclusion. For those who are on the bubble, their path to the sweet 16 proves tougher as the teams they chase continue to participate in close, three-point games.

One of the things that drives both teams and fans absolutely crazy, is trying to hunt down those that possess the last few spots in the playoff chase and seeing the dreaded OVERTIME game between their competitors.

The NHL is the only sport that rewards teams for losing. I prefer to actually read the win-loss columns for what they truly are… wins and losses. A team is not considered above .500 if they are 30-25-15. When it’s all said and done, you’re 30-40. The bottom line is if you lose at the end of the night, you don’t feel like you’ve earned anything, let alone a point. Likewise, if you win a game in a skills competition, that shouldn’t count the same as beating a team in regulation. I get it…. the NHL wants parity and largely they’ve accomplished that goal since the inception of the salary cap era. But quite frankly, this isn’t your 7-year old’s mite team that you give a consolation prize to for losing.

Let’s compare a few teams with seemingly similar numbers. The Minnesota Wild currently are 7th in the Western Conference, a comfortable 8 points ahead of the Stars who are in 9th. They are also 13 points ahead of 12th place Nashville. Believe it or not, these teams have something very significant in common….. they each have exactly 30 regulation/OT wins. So what is separating one from the others?

First off, the Preds have been outscored by 40 goals this year while Dallas and Minnesota are basically even in that regard. Secondly, the Wild have played 21 games past regulation. TWENTY ONE! They’ve gone 3-4 in OT and 7-7 in shootouts. Compare that to the Stars who are just 2-6 in OT and 3-5 in shootouts. The Preds are 3-3 in OT and an abysmal 1-7 in the shootout. Now I’m not a proponent of nine years ago when ties were still part of the game, but what would be the best solution to the extra point being given out in an OT game? The answer is simply to make each game worth three points and here’s why.

First, you’re rewarding teams for getting the job done in regulation by giving all the points to them. Regular season games will mean everything, particularly against divisional foes at the end of a close game when each result could be a six-point swing in the standings.

Secondly, the NHL is always trying to make the game more exciting and I can think of few ways to make it more wide open than to encourage aggressiveness by teams, particularly this time of year when points become that much more crucial. Picture a team in the last week of the season playing a team they are chasing and can’t afford to let them have any points. They decide to pull the goalie while the game is tied in an effort to win in regulation. Everybody would be on the edge of their seat to watch that and I’ve yet to hear anyone say different.

Third, a team can get hot and still make up ground late in the season to have a shot at the playoffs. It’s incredibly frustrating for a team to win on a given night, knowing that its rivals can go to OT, ensuring they will not make up ground on one of them.

If the league truly wants to continue awarding a point for an OT or shootout loss, then going to a 3-point regulation win is the only way to go.

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