Column: Point of contention

Brendan McCarthy
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Those who regularly follow my thoughts in this space (thank you, by the way) should well know my dislike of overtime and my absolute disdain for the use of the shootout to decide hockey games.
I am not going to rehash all my arguments in support of this opinion, but will only reiterate that I see nothing wrong with ties; I don’t feel cheated if a regular-season game doesn’t have a winner; and some of the best contests I have ever seen have resulted in a draw (see Montreal Canadiens 3, Red Army 3 on Dec. 31, 1975, widely lauded as the best game ever played).

Now, I have to admit that I don’t see either overtime or shootouts being taken out of the equation, but the shine is certainly off the shootout. The penalty shot, often described as the most exciting play in hockey, has been made one of the most common plays in hockey by the shootout. For example, there have been more than 1,600 shootout attempts during this American Hockey League season (the St. John’s IceCaps have taken 49). Meanwhile, there have been only 69 regular-type penalty shots in all AHL games so far in 2013-14.

Even the AHL and National Hockey League seem to agree that games decided by shootouts don’t carry the same weight as regular-time or OT decisions. How else would you explain by the ROW column that you find in the standings showing playoff position? ROW stands for the total of regulation and overtime wins by teams, and is used as the first tiebreaker. Shootout wins don’t count in this case.

Another question: If shootout wins aren’t important enough to be used in determining playoff position — and conceivably, if a team makes the post-season or not — why are shootout games worth a total of three points (two for the winner and one for the loser), while regulation victories are worth only the two points picked up by the winner?

Wouldn’t it be simpler to make all games worth three points, as is the case in most pro soccer leagues, and hand out three points for regulation wins and stay with the two/one split in OT and shootouts? There would be a built-in incentive (especially at this point in the season) to adopt a go-for-it attitude late in third period of tie games  as opposed to what we often see now in these situations, where teams are satisfied knowing they’ll pick up a least a point in OT and play it safe in the waning minutes of regulation.

•••

Heading into their final homestand of the regular season, which begins with games tonight and Saturday against the Springfield Falcons, the IceCaps’ magic number to claim a playoff spots remains at six (as in six points). The simplest way for St. John’s to achieve this would be to win at least three of its remaining eight games, but truth is that magic number is much more complicated, factoring in the ROWS, the games remaining for teams behind the IceCaps in the standings and who those teams play; when one team trailing St. John’s beats another, the IceCaps stand to gain.

There is still a chance the IceCaps (41-22-5) could overtake the Manchester Monarchs for first place in the Atlantic Division, but it is more likely St. John’s will finish fourth behind the the three division winners, who get the top three playoff seeds, regardless of points totals.

The Falcons (43-20-6), by the way, are just six points away from clinching first in the East Division.

•••

If the playoffs began today, St. John’s would face the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, who have been getting some outstanding netminding from former IceCaps’ goalie Peter Mannino, whose season has seen a remarkable renaissance.

The 30-year-old Mannino was basically out of hockey for two months this season after he refused an reassignment from the AHL Penguins to the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL. As a result, he was suspended by Wilkes-Barre in mid-November and remained home until Jan. 15, when he reconsidered and went to Wheeling, where he played a half-dozen games before being brought back to Wilkes-Barre.

Mannino played only one game for the Penguins in February, but was a revelation in March, when he made 10 starts, allowing two goals or fewer each time, stopped 211 of 222 shots and compiled a 7-2-1 record with a 1.09 goals-against average, a .950 save percentage and two shutouts.

As a result, he was named the AHL goaltender of the month.

•••

Earlier this week, the AHL announced individual team winners of the IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year awards, selected for their contributions to community and charitable organizations during the 2013-14 season.

From this list of 30 team winners will be chosen the winner of the 2013-14 Yanick Dupré Memorial Award as the AHL Man of the Year. The award is named after forward Yanick Dupré, who died in 1997 at the age of 24, following a 16-month battle with leukemia. Dupré, an AHL All-Star in 1995, played four seasons with the Hershey Bears.

IceCaps’ captain Jason Jaffray is his teams’s Man of the Year this season. It’s the second time he’s won the award as an IceCap.

One of Jaffray’s most memorable efforts came during the Christmas season as he and his wife Michelle rallied the team to assist a needy family in the St. John’s area. He also visited schools throughout the season, volunteered his time to visit local minor hockey practices, hosted 10 young fans as part of the “Captain for a Day” promotion and provided IceCaps tickets to children and families dealing with various health challenges. In fact, Jaffray struck up a special relationship with one minor hockey player who had suffered a serious medical incident during one of his games.

 

bmcc@thetelegram.com

Organizations: IceCaps, American Hockey League, AHL and National Hockey League Penguins IOA/American Specialty AHL Man

Geographic location: Wilkes-Barre, Atlantic, East Division.

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