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Analysis: Rules changes could create more scoring

by Dan Rosen

Though the NHL's general managers didn't have an interest in devising major rule changes when they met six months ago in Boca Raton, Fla., they did come up with a plan to create subtle changes geared toward increasing offense.

After the majority of their recommended changes were approved by the NHL Competition Committee, the NHL Board of Governors and the National Hockey League Players' Association's Executive Board, the League announced the changes for the 2014-15 season Thursday.

Not surprisingly, they are similar, and in many cases the exact same, as the ideas the GMs discussed, debated and recommended six months ago. And yes, the majority of the changes have been written into the rulebook with the underlying goal of increasing offense.


NHL unveils rules changes for 2014-15

NEW YORK -- The National Hockey League announced today a series of rules changes for the 2014-15 season, following approval earlier in the summer by the League's Board of Governors and the National Hockey League Players' Association. READ MORE ›

Here are six examples:

Rule 1.8 -- Rink - Goalkeeper's Restricted Area

The trapezoid area will be increased from 18 feet to 22 feet along the goal line as a way to give goaltenders more of an opportunity to help their defensemen as they come back for the puck. However, in allowing goalies more freedom to play the puck the NHL also is increasing the possibility for turnovers and scoring chances by the forechecking team.

For example, a goalie moves out of his crease to his right to play the puck in the extra space he now has but fumbles the puck, misfires on a pass or has a miscommunication with his defenseman. Now the forechecker, if he's doing his job, has an opportunity to pounce on the turnover to create a scoring chance for himself or a teammate.

Unless a team has a goalie as adept at playing the puck as Mike Smith or Martin Brodeur, most coaches would rather a skater handle the puck than a goalie for fear of a turnover.

Rule 38 -- Video Goal Judge

Expanding video review is a hot-button issue in the NHL and the GMs have acted deliberately on this for fear of unintended consequences. They don't want to make a change, such as putting a monitor in the penalty box and allowing the on-ice officials to go to the replay to determine goaltender interference on an otherwise good goal, only to find out later it has created a new problem.

The GMs are not ready to move beyond the discussion phase on something like reviewing goals scored on potential goalie-interference plays, but the League is expanding the video review process for the 2014-15 season to allow the Hockey Operations Department more leniency in calling for what are defined as "good hockey goals."

As an example, there now will be a broader discretion for allowing kicked-in goals. If the puck goes in the net from a kicking motion but it's not clear if it was intentionally kicked in or accidentally kicked in, Hockey Operations will lean toward it being a good goal.

Hockey Operations also will have the ability to provide guidance to the on-ice referees on goal and potential goal plays in situations where the whistle blew or was intended to be blown after they lost sight of the puck. That means that the people in the NHL Situation Room in Toronto can talk the officials through the play to make sure the puck wasn't in the net prior to the exact time the referee blew the play dead or intended to blow the play dead.

Rule 57 -- Tripping

In the past it has been legal for a defending player to dive and knock the puck off an attacking player's stick with his own stick, hands, legs or feet as long as he touches the puck first. It was viewed in many instances as a momentum-changing defensive play because the majority of the time it stopped a developing breakaway or odd-man rush.

Not anymore. Now, that same defensive play will result in a two-minute minor penalty for tripping regardless if the defending player touches the puck first.

The summary here is that if an attacking player or players have a step and could go in for a breakaway or odd-man rush, the NHL wants to let that exciting play happen. If the defending player doesn't want to let it happen, he'll have to sit in the box and give the opposition a power play.

However, in situations where a penalty shot might otherwise have been awarded, if a defending player dives and touches the puck first and knocks it off the attacking player's stick, no penalty shot will be awarded. The result will be a penalty for tripping and a power play for the opposition.

Rule 76 -- Faceoffs

The NHL has changed the rule on faceoffs to eliminate delay tactics teams had used after icing infractions. This was a bothersome issue for the general managers, who did not like it when coaches used delay tactics that were obvious and unpunishable.

Now, following an icing the defending player who lines up to take the faceoff will be given a warning if he commits a violation but will be required to stay in the circle to take the faceoff. If he commits a second violation his team will be assessed a two-minute penalty for delay of game.

Under the previous format a player could go into the circle for a faceoff after an icing but commit a violation to get thrown out, creating a short rest period for teammates before another player replaced him for the second faceoff attempt.

This rule change increases the chance of two things happening: A tired center losing a defensive-zone faceoff after an icing, and a power play because of multiple violations by a tired player.

Rule 84 -- Overtime

The GMs want more games to end in overtime than in the shootout but they're not prepared to increase the amount of minutes played in overtime or decrease the number of skaters allowed on the ice. Instead, they're going with a change that historically has resulted in an increased percentage of goals.

Teams will switch ends prior to the start of overtime as they do prior to the start of the second period. Switching ends creates the long-change effect and has led to a greater number of goals scored in the second period (36 percent) than in the first (30 percent) or third (34 percent) since 2005-06 because of the increased challenges of changing players on the fly.

The United States Hockey League made the change last season to switch ends for overtime and experienced an approximate 10-percent bump in games that ended in overtime rather than the shootout, according to stats provided in March.

To help facilitate more goals in overtime, the entire ice surface will be cleaned with a dry scrape prior to the beginning of the overtime session. A cleaner ice sheet obviously gives players a better chance to make plays and create scoring chances. In the past, the ice wasn't scraped until before the start of the shootout.

Rule 85 -- Puck Out of Bounds

This is about the location of faceoffs after plays in which the attacking team is responsible for the stoppage in play.

The faceoff will take place in the attacking zone if the puck goes out of bounds on shots that break the glass, carom off the net and deflect out of play, go off the boards or glass and deflect out of play, get tipped or deflected out of play by a teammate, or result in the puck getting stuck somewhere in or on the exterior of the goal.

It stands to reason that with more faceoffs in the attacking zone there are more opportunities to create scoring chances or icing infractions.


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