Would the NHL be better off with one less official on the ice?

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fourreferees.jpgBack when Brendan Shanahan organized a research and development camp this summer, there were all sorts of different experimental rule changes and tweaks being tested. One possible alteration included the interesting idea of taking a referee off the ice and placing that official on a platform overlooking the ice (to provide a different vantage point to call penalties and – perhaps – to open up a little more room).

Sportsnet.ca’s Mike Brophy brings up an idea that takes a zebra off the ice … altogether.

While the league and its officials continue in collective bargaining agreement talks in an effort to secure a new contract between the two groups before the 2010-11 season begins, there are some who believe the day is approaching when the league will go with two referees and just one linesman per game.

There has been no indication the league would use the elimination of one linesman as a bargaining tactic.

NHL hockey was traditionally officiated by one referee and two linesmen until the 2000-01 season when a second referee was added to the mix.

“Ten years ago if you talked about doing this it would be universally turned down,” one source told sportsnet.ca. “But now, since the league took the centre red line out (in 2005-06) linesmen are doing less than they ever have. The NHL has tapes of at least eight games in which two referees and one linesman worked and those games were mistake free. Those games were officiated that way because of injury, illness or travel issues. One concern the NHL has is will players try to break the rules more knowing there are only three officials on the ice?”

I enjoy the feng shui*-friendly dynamic of opening up a little space on the ice, but my gut instinct is to think that less officials mean more blown calls. If anything, I want more eye balls on the kind of tomfoolery hockey players engage in, not two less.**

As far as opening up the ice, perhaps that research and development camp idea has some wisdom in moving a ref to a platform off the ice … or maybe the NHL could use new-fangled technology to buzz extra officiating advice into the ears of officials at crucial times? That’s probably a potentially lousy idea, but I’m just spit-balling here, kids.

Anyway, this is far from a confirmed idea – there’s no concrete word on discussions, let alone a vote on the changed rule by the Board of Governors/Competition Committee – but how would you feel about the idea of the NHL reverting back to its one referee, two linesmen setup? Let us know in the comments.

* – There is at least a 90 percent chance I used that term incorrectly. If you’ve ever had the misfortune of viewing my living quarters, you’d know that the lesson was lost on me either way. So let’s pretend I used it incorrectly for comedic purposes, OK?

** – Not to discriminate against one-eyed officials, naturally.

Pavelski’s late goal helps Sharks grab 2-0 series lead over Preds

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The San Jose Sharks became the only team in the second round to jump out to a 2-0 lead in their series. The Sharks did it by beating the Predators 3-2 in Game 2 on Sunday night.

San Jose opened the scoring in the second period when Logan Couture buried a rebound by Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. Brent Burns took the initial shot from the point and extended his playoff point streak to four games.

The Predators finally got on the board at the 12:56 mark of the third period when Mattias Ekholm tied the game at one.

Here’s the goal:

Nashville’s good fortune didn’t last very long. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski gave San Jose a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later.

Pavelski also picked up two assists in the game. The 31-year-old has at least one point in six of his seven postseason games in 2016.

Joe Thornton then added an empty-netter in the final minute of play before Ryan Johansen scored with four seconds remaining.

Despite the loss, Preds head coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t too disappointed by the way his team played.

The Predators outshot the Sharks (39-25), they outhit San Jose (46-26), but they just couldn’t outscore them.

Like the old saying goes: “you’re not in trouble until you lose a game on home ice.” The Preds still haven’t done that, which means they’re not done yet.

The series now shifts to Nashville for Game 3, which will be played on Tuesday night.

Video: Marc-Edouard Vlasic saved by his visor after taking Shea Weber shot to the face

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It’s a scary night for players getting hit in the head with pucks.

After Brian Elliott was hit in the head by a Jason Spezza slapshot, it was Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s turn to narrowly avoid disaster.

In the third period of Sunday’s game against the Predators, Vlasic took a puck to the face. The end result could have been catastrophic had Vlasic not had a visor.

You can see the incident by clicking the video at the top of the page.

It’s nice to see that Vlasic was in a joking mood after the game:

Hockey Twitter breathed a collective sigh of relief after Vlasic got back up:

It sounds like Olli Maatta won’t be ready for Game 3

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You’ve all seen it by now (if you haven’t, click the video at the top of page). Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta was forced to leave Game 2 against the Capitals after taking a late hit from Brooks Orpik. Not only was the hit late, but Orpik also caught Maatta in the head.

After the Penguins’ optional skate on Sunday, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan wasn’t optimistic about Maatta’s chances of playing in Game 3 on Monday night.

“Olli’s being evaluated as we speak, so I don’t have any real update as far as his status is concerned,” Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s being evaluated today, we’ll probably have more information in the morning.

“I don’t have a lot of sense of his availability. I’m probably not optimistic, though.”

After the game, Capitals coach Barry Trotz stood up for his defenseman.

“We’ll let the league handle it,” Trotz said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard, he plays clean. He’s not a dirty player.”

And the league certainly did handle it, as they suspended Orpik for three games.

Related:

Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

Brooks Orpik suspended three games for hit on Olli Maatta

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Brooks Orpik has been suspended for three games for his hit on Olli Maatta (top). The Caps defenseman will be forced to miss Games 3, 4 and 5 of the best-of-seven series against the Penguins.

Orpik delivered a late, high hit to Maatta in Game 2. The Penguins defenseman was wobbly getting off the ice and he was unable to return to the game.

Here’s how the Department of Players Safety saw the play:

“Orpik steps up to pressure Bonino, who quickly moves the puck to Maatta. Orpik peels off Bonino to pressure Maatta, who releases a shot from the top of the circle. The two continue on their path toward the goal line, as the puck is kicked into the slot. A full second after Maatta releases the puck, Orpik delivers a high, forceful hit making significant head contact. This is interference.”

To watch the NHL’s Department of Player Safety’s full explanation, click the video below.

This is the third time Orpik’s been suspended in his NHL career.