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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Painful to Watch…

I love hockey, but the Stanley Cup Playoffs have become a snooze fest. Unless you like very few scoring chances, barely any goals, never ending blocked shots and no-risk hockey.

If you are a fan of the Islanders, Lightning, Stars or Golden Knights, you probably disagree, but that’s likely because you have an emotional connection to the games. The lack of crowds has allowed us to focus solely on what is happening on the ice. There is no crowd to inject excitement into the building. The lack of excitement is a concern.

Goals are one aspect of exciting hockey, but the reduction in scoring chances is the biggest concern. Scoring chances get the adrenaline going on the ice, but also for those at home watching, or in the stands when fans are allowed back in. Goals are the climax, and you don’t need seven every night to be fulfilled. But, my goodness, you need some scoring chances. Outside of Nikita Kucherov’s glorious chance early in the second overtime, there were very few good chances before Jordan Eberle won it in overtime.

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They played 92:30 of playoff hockey last night and combined for 61 shots. The Islanders never had more than six in a period. Dreadful.

“That’s their style,” is a common refrain. Why can’t teams be aware defensively, but still capable of having a pulse offensively? Why do we just have to accept that the best players in the world can’t generate consistent shots on goal, quality scoring chances and ultimately more goals?

We’ve seen 10 games in the Conference Finals thus far.

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The five games between Dallas and Vegas had a total of 17 goals.
3-2
3-2
2-1
3-0
1-0

They averaged a total of 3.4 goals/game. Brutal.

The five Tampa/New York games have been more entertaining, which isn’t saying much considering the coma-inducing performance last night.

8-2
5-3
4-1
2-1
2-1

They are averaging 5.8 goals/game, but Tampa crushing the Islanders in game one skews those numbers a bit.

EXCITEMENT = ENTERTAINMENT…

Right now the NBA is crushing the NHL in excitement value. It isn’t close. And they don’t have fans in the stands either.

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The NBA’s best players are at the forefront every night. Either making plays, or missing shots, but no lead is safe and we’ve seen double-digits comebacks nightly.

And you can still have great defensive plays while simultaneously having exciting games. This block was at the buzzer and Miami won game one after erasing a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter.

I can’t stand the Celtics or the Heat, but I enjoyed watching that game on my laptop.

Hockey can be the most exciting game in the world. The speed of the game, the potential for quick transition and the skill of today’s players should be a recipe for entertainment. But we rarely see it. The emphasis on tight checking, and packing bodies in tight so the attacking team has few shooting lanes, equates to boring hockey.

Of course when your team is playing it is exciting. I get that, but it’s only because you are emotionally connected. The game should be entertaining enough that hockey fans will watch when their team isn’t playing. And right now that isn’t the case.

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You remove the energy and excitement of the crowd, and now the game is exposed and naked. We can see it for what it is, and the lack of lead changes, scoring chances, goals, big hits and spectacular saves is a problem.

It’s too bad, because hockey has shown us how exciting it can be, but the emphasis on sound defence and minimal-risk is making the game much less enjoyable for me. Also, how about actually enforce the rule book. I know it is a radical thought, but it is a simple one that would make the game better.

Do you feel the same? Or do you like the NHL product you are watching (regardless of who is playing)?

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DRAISAITL SKATING…

Alex Thomas tweeted this earlier today.

He can skate with them, but he would need the Edmonton Oilers to assign him there if he wants to play games. As of this writing, neither he nor his agent have asked the Oilers to do so. There are pros and cons of him playing. The major concern would be an injury. It is a low probability, but the reigning Art Ross Trophy winner, and highly possible Hart Trophy winner, getting injured would be devastating for the Oilers.

However, if the NHL season is pushed back further, I sense Ken Holland, if Draisaitl asks, might be interested in letting his star player play some games. The benefit is he would get in some game action and knock off some rust. Draisaitl has played five games, including the pre-playoff game against Calgary, since March 11th. Best case scenario for the NHL is the season begins in December, but starting in January or later is more realistic.

That means Draisaitl would only have played five games in 10 months. No player wants to go that long without playing, and while today there has been no discussion between Holland and Draisaitl about him playing in Germany, it doesn’t mean those conversations can’t happen in the future. It is something to monitor.

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