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Players need to practice preventive medicine

by Dan Pollard
Scotty Bowman used to practice line changes when he was coaching in Montreal. He considered it another part of his flow drills and just another game situation that should be worked on.

It may soon become part of the regular drill set for all NHL practices. As of Tuesday there were 25 "too many men on the ice" penalties in the playoffs and counting. At least that's by my count. That's a lot of brain cramps. Six were rung up in the first period of play, 10 in the second period, and seven in the third.

What's happening here? I guess you look at scoring chances in the second period and figure players are eager to jump into the play. Line matchups certainly can create confusion on the bench. As players are matched and their opposite line switches up or jumps back over the boards, players can jump early. Situational reads can also quickly change the best-laid plans.

Chicago's Ben Eager became "too many men on the ice" victim No. 25 Monday when he turned away from the bench to play the puck against the Canucks. Eager was lucky the Canucks came up empty on the power play. It's not always easy to lay blame, but this was a clear cut case of Ben being too Eager.

The chicken or the egg argument came up in Game 5 of the Caps' first-round series with Montreal when Semyon Varlamov made a dash to the bench before quickly retreating back to his net. Was it Varlamov's fault for turning back when he saw the play heading up ice or was it his teammates for not accessing the play and jumping too early?

Two teams have paid the ultimate penalty for having an extra jersey on the ice in overtime this playoff season. In the first round, Anze Kopitar scored with the man advantage for L.A. in OT of Game 2 against Vancouver, and Miroslav Satan scored the game winner in the second overtime for Boston in Game 4 against Buffalo.

* Early pressure and late pressure may account for the fact the majority of the "firing the puck over the glass" penalties occur in the first and third periods. Five times players have been called for the infraction in the first, six times in the third. Two others occurred in the second period of play. Who says it's not a skill to fire it high and hard off the glass? Miss your target and you've cost your team. The ability to do it under pressure could save a game.

* Sending a message early and late desperation in a game I'm sure are the reasons goalie interference penalties spike in the first and third periods. Seven times players have been sent to the sin bin for getting a little too close and personal with netminders in the first. Eight players have felt shame for the infraction in the third. Two others did their time for a goalie meet and greet in the second period. 

* Finally a note to players who love to hand out face washes. If you stick your glove in someone's mouth you hit teeth! While Dan Carcillo claims Marc Savard bit him it sure didn't appear that Savard reached out to bite anyone. Carcillo reached in. Ask any dentist. Teeth are sharp.

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