The Break Down

After my article "Robocop" was posted two weeks ago, Ken posted a comment. He made reference to Don Cherry and the old boys club of the NHL maybe wanting to bring back the two line pass rule.

I can’t say I saw the Cherry clip, but I imagine he didn’t explain why this rule has a direct impact on the speed of the game and on big hits which can contribute to the injuries like concussions.

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Let me break it down and explain why he might feel that way.

Prior to the lock-out, clutching and grabbing was happening all over the ice. It slowed down the game the most in the neutral zone as defending players would lock on to a forechecking player with their stick and slow them down. This was called "water skiing".

Water skiing made it very difficult for a forechecker to get any speed while breaking into the offsensive zone. The elimination of clutching and grabbing helped teams to forecheck, but it wasn’t going to be enough. NHL teams had gotten so adept at playing a trap style neutral zone forecheck that more space was required. Before the elimination of the redline, a forward stretching at the far blue line was not closely guarded. The two defending dman could hold the red line until the puck crossed the blue line.

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With the elimination of the redline, those same 2 dman were required to back off and respect any forward stretching behind them. This opened up the neutral zone a lot. There was now the possibility of a gap between the defending teams forwards and dmen. Players could get a lot of speed going in their own zone which is a great way to get past a neutral zone defense. Ryan Kesler does this very well. He picks up the puck behind the net at full speed and flies up the ice. Most players will back off when a guy with speed is coming at them.

Teams now try to force the attacking team to dump the puck in by funneling the puck carrier towards the boards. He runs out of space and must chip it in, but he usually doesn’t lose his speed. This is where the impact of the rule change was felt. The defending dman must now turn to retrieve the puck with not as much speed as the oncoming forechecker. He’s a sitting duck.


It is also affects attacking players. Once they gain the blueline they think it is safer and they won’t be hit. But players back check so hard once they stop moving their feet the attacking player is also a sitting duck. A couple of examples are Richards hit on Booth and Cooke’s hit on Savard. Both players had just gained the blue line and had stopped moving their feet which isn’t abnormal. Back checkers keep coming and then….Bam!!

The elimination of both the redline and water skiing has been great for the game but it has had side effects. All the speed in the game now will only continue to compound these issues.

So don’t go to hard on good old Grapes! He has some good ideas every now and then but maybe Ron should break them down during the segments.

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