After playing in the sixth-longest game in NHL history, players with the Dallas Stars and Vancouver Canucks talked Thursday about the mystique of the playoffs and what it takes to win the Stanley Cup. No one said anything about changing the overtime format for playoff games.
“‘It’s kind of the mystique of winning the game and going through all those battles,” said Dallas’s Stu Barnes. “‘It’s hard to mess with the integrity of that.”
The Canucks needed almost four overtimes to defeat the Stars 5-4 in the opening game of the Western Conference quarter-final series, which began Wednesday night and ended early Thursday morning. Henrik Sedin scored the winning goal at 18:06 of the game’s seventh period.
Canuck goaltender Roberto Luongo, who faced a record 76 shots in his first career playoff game, bristled at any suggestion the game was too long.
“‘I think we should stop analysing everything about the game,’ said Luongo. “That’s the way it was intended to be.
“A game like last night will go down in history so I don’t see why we would change anything like that.”
If regular-season games are tied after 60 minutes of play, teams have a five-minute, sudden-death overtime with four players each on the ice.
If no one scores, the game is decided by a shootout.
“‘I don’t want to see a shootout in overtime,” said Vancouver captain Markus Naslund. “It they were going to do something maybe go down to four-on-four.”
Other players around the league agreed changing overtime would be like slicing 100 miles off the Indianapolis 500.
“I think that’s what makes the playoffs unique,” Senators star Dany Heatley said in Ottawa. “It’s a tradition and it’s been that way forever.
“That’s what makes it unique. Some of the greatest goals in history have been scored in two or three overtimes so that would be a tough thing to take away from the game.”
Veteran Gary Roberts of the Pittsburgh Penguins doesn’t rule out playoff shootouts.
“The fans have enjoyed the shootout and they’re who we are out there trying to please,” said Roberts, who scored in the third overtime to give Toronto a 3-2 win over Ottawa in the 2002 playoffs. “It wouldn’t surprise me, down the road, if it goes that route.
“I don’t know how fans feel about no overtimes.”
Gary Meagher, the NHL’s vice-president of public relations, said changing the playoff overtime format has been discussed at the league level “in a very general way.”
“Certainly there is no sentiment to change direction, in any way, the overtime format as it currently exists,” he said from Toronto.
The one thing that could alter that thinking is if there were several marathon overtime games in one Stanley Cup playoff, which could endanger the health of players.
“If you were ever to change it, you would have to be making it for a good reason,” said Meagher.
Some fans objected when the last World Cup of soccer was decided by a shootout. And many Canadians are still mad Sweden beat Canada in a shootout to win the 1994 Olympic hockey gold medal.
Meagher doubts a Stanley Cup final will ever end in a shootout.
“That’s one you can dismiss,” he said with a chuckle. “That isn’t happening.”
The San Jose Sharks watched part of the Vancouver-Dallas game after they went back to their hotel rooms from their own double overtime victory over Nashville on Wednesday.
Shark coach Ron Wilson said the league is missing a revenue opportunity in the playoffs.
There are no TV commercial breaks in postseason overtimes and intermissions are slashed from 20 minutes to 15 minutes.
“There’s a revenue stream thrown out the window right there,” Wilson said of the lack of TV breaks that usually come after the 14-, 10-and six-minute marks during regulation.
Commercial breaks could be shortened in overtime to give players a chance to rest, Wilson said.
“That’s when injuries happen, when guys get tired,” he said.
Vancouver GM Dave Nonis said he’d listen to any suggestions about overtime.
“If someone can show there is a better way of doing anything you have to look at it,” said Nonis. “At this point I don’t see a better way.
“I do believe you have to end a hockey game by playing a hockey game. The regular-season shootouts are something I would never consider.”
The Canucks and Stars played 78 minutes and six seconds of overtime. That’s slightly longer than the 78:18 the Toronto Maples Leafs needed to defeat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 on March 23, 1943.
It was the longest playoff game since Philadelphia defeated Pittsburgh 2-1 in 92:01 of overtime May 4, 2000.
The longest overtime game in NHL history was 116:30 when Detroit beat the Montreal Maroons 1-0 on March 24, 1936.
Senators coach Bryan Murray said surviving an overtime tests a team’s spirits.
He coached the Washington Capitals when they lost 3-2 to the New York Islanders after 68:47 of overtime in the 1987 playoffs.
“They’re hard, long games,” said Murray. “It takes a lot out of your players.
“That will really test the players going into the next game and as the series goes on. But it’s exciting as hell.”
Ottawa’s Jason Spezza admitted he fell asleep after the second overtime Wednesday.
He remembers having a long overtime in the AHL against Pittsburgh’s minor-league affiliate in the 2005 playoffs.
“It becomes a test of wills because you’re trying to avoid mental mistakes,” said Spezza. “And it’s usually never a pretty goal that wins it.”
-With files from Pierre LeBrun and Sean Farrell of The Canadian Press in Ottawa and Teresa M. Walker of The Associated Press in Nashville, Tenn.