There was a time when I’d raise a kerfuffle over a rule change like 3-on-3 overtime, but that argument has faded more and more as it’s truly dawned upon me that the league’s priorities don’t match mine.
For me, an entertaining hockey game is the most important goal. If I have to choose between exciting-but-sloppy or tactically sound (yet milquetoast), I’ll take the flawed thrills just about every time. The league seems more focused on aesthetics that really only impact the grumpiest among us (the Sean Avery rule, the fixation on diving, tucked in sweaters, spin-o-ramas).
If I had to choose between 3-on-3 overtime formats, I’d go with 3-on-3 the whole time. When you transition from 4-on-4 to 3-on-3, you open a bag of worms as far as timing (if you wait for the next whistle to move to 3-on-3, what happens if there’s an especially long shift and it never gets there … will it be another round of GM meetings wasting time on this?). I don’t especially care for 3-on-3 OT - it’s like putting a Band-Aid over a crater or handing out antibiotics for a massive head wound - but if that’s the kind of “progress” we must settle for, at least do it in the most reasonable way.
As much as I’d like 3-2-1 standings formats and bigger nets to be among the key discussions, it’s clear we’re a very, very long way from the league addressing its significant scoring issues. No sense waiting around for a train that will never come.
Let’s move on to the recaps, shall we?
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DUCKS 3, LOS ANGELES 2 (OT)
-- As of late Wednesday night, things looked awfully rosy for the Kings. After eyeing the playoff bubble most regularly, they find themselves in third place in the Pacific. It doesn't really change the parameters in much more than a cosmetic way - their biggest worries still generally revolve around holding off some combination of Winnipeg, Calgary and San Jose - but now Vancouver sweats a little extra (instead of the West's biggest heavyweights).
You probably already know that the Kings aren't by any means out of the woods just yet, but it's especially true because of their upcoming schedule.
March ends in a harsh way. After Saturday's home game against the Canucks, take a look at this road run:
March 23: at New Jersey
March 24: at Rangers
March 26: at Islanders
March 28: at Minnesota
March 30: at Chicago
Even the Devils aren't pushovers.
All foreboding schedule talk aside, Los Angeles has been playing very well lately, making for a very interesting playoff push.
-- Almost every relevant Ducks defenseman got an assist in this one, as James Wisniewski, Hampus Lindholm, Cam Fowler and Simon Despres all notched an assist apiece. Francois Beauchemin couldn't make it happen, though.
Bruce Boudreau is kind of like a seemingly fantasy-spiteful NFL coach who switches up primary RB on a whim (even if both coaches are just trying to win).
BLACKHAWKS 1, RANGERS 0
-- I know these are two strong defensive teams - two teams missing key creators in Patrick Kane and Martin St. Louis - but still, two 1-0 finishes, with one needing OT just to carve out a goal? You're killing everyone but owners of these goalies, guys.
-- Scott Darling is yet another out-of-nowhere (OK, he was a sixth-rounder in 2007) goalie who seems to continue strong work, stopping all 25 shots in his first NHL game since Feb. 27. This marks his first NHL shutout in his 10th NHL game, prompting Andrew Hammond to call him a bearded slacker (and, most cruelly, "perhaps not burger-worthy").
-- Brad Richards scored the game's only goal, so that's three-game winners among his 11 tallies this season. Chicago didn't risk much with him, but 35 points in 67 games is a little disappointing, especially since he isn't asked to do a whole lot more than score points.
-- Kris Versteeg was a healthy scratch in this one, and it didn't happen with a whole lot of notice (though he expected such a fate earlier this week).
-- That's now 11 straight games without a point for Derek Stepan, who must have been frustrated in coming up empty on six SOG. Can't say I'm sure what, exactly, is going wrong for him.
BLUE JACKETS 4, OILERS 3 (SO)
-- Dare I wonder if the Coyotes might just end up "catching" the Sabres for last in the NHL? Buffalo seems like it's showing a moderate scrappiness lately, and Edmonton shows its flashes of semi-competence too (like almost coming back in this one).
Arizona just seems more committed to not-winning, although Mike Smith has been shown enough life that there's still room for self-destructive success in their regard, too.
-- Actually, that makes me wonder: will a GM follow Lou Lamoriello to the bench someday, only with the goal to tank more effectively? That would be too brazen - again, we know how the league cares about optics in areas that actually don't mean a whole lot - but I would tip my cap to anyone bold enough to bend the rules like that.
(Sometimes shenanigans beat the on-ice action for these especially sad teams.)
-- If you're hurting for offense, Nail Yakupov (31 percent owned) has been quietly making some art in garbage time. In 19 games between February and March, he has 14 points (half of his disappointing 28 points in 70 games). If you can sacrifice plus/minus, he's a decent fringe option.
(His signs of life make me think that the Oilers should offer Derek Roy a deal for 2015-16, although I'd probably do little more than extend a one-year minimum deal.)
-- Curtis McElhinney stole this one for Columbus, stopping 44 out of 47 shots. He had to make 12 out of 13 stops on the penalty kill, as Edmonton went 1-for-6 on the PP.
I know a .913 save percentage isn't that exciting in The Year of the Rando Backup, but the veteran's played well enough that he probably deserves a No. 2 spot (or at least a Dan Ellis-style AHL job with a chance at some NHL reps) in 2015-16.