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Old Time Hockey

Mar 08, 2012; Vancouver, British Columbia, CANADA; Vancouver Canucks forward Samuel Pahlsson (26) during the first period against the Winnipeg Jets at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-US PRESSWIRE
Mar 08, 2012; Vancouver, British Columbia, CANADA; Vancouver Canucks forward Samuel Pahlsson (26) during the first period against the Winnipeg Jets at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-US PRESSWIRE

"Old Time Hockey." It's one of the more popular catch phrases in a game overrun by clichés regardless of the fact that it has so many interpretations that it's become nearly meaningless.

The origins of "Old Time Hockey" come from the classic of all classic hockey movies: The Mighty Ducks Slap Shot. In an inspirational pregame speech Player/Coach Reg Dunlop encourages his band of goons to class it up and play "Old Time Hockey" like Eddie Shore. The irony being that despite Shore's generational talent, his career was marred by a Bertuzzi-esque moment of on-ice violence that ended the career of Garnet "Ace" Bailey. Since the 1977 release of Slap Shot the phrase has evolved to cover just about any style of play that is not seen as modern, even more ironically including the very gongshows that the Chiefs were trying to distance themselves from.

To me, a child of the ‘90s who learned the nuances of the game under the heavy shadow of the Dead Puck Era, "Old Time Hockey" is all about defense, the trap, clutching, grabbing and goalies that look like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. In short, it's everything that was wrong with the game going into the 2005 lockout.

I'll always remember being at game four of the 2003 Stanley Cup Final with my mom and a family friend from Chicago who had grown up with the game through the ‘70s and ‘80s. After Steve Thomas scored to give the Ducks a 1-0 win 39 seconds into overtime, our friend called it the most boring game he'd ever seen, but my mom and I didn't really know any better. Our team had just got a new lease on life in the Stanley Cup Final with two dramatic overtime wins in a row. As far as we knew this was as good as it could get. Of course we learned that faster more open hockey can exist and is objectively more fun to watch.

Wednesday morning Joseph Casciaro of Backhand Shelf argued that playoff overtime has lost some of its luster. In the post he points out that the last triple overtime game was in the first round of the 2010 playoffs and if there are no triple OT games this year it would be the first time since ‘92/'93 that the NHL has gone back to back years without one. That just doesn't seem right to me.

Even though in the past I may have made the lazy argument that Jacques Lemaire, the Devils and Minnesota Wild destroyed hockey to the point that a full season needed to be cancelled to fix it, some part of me misses those days. I know I'm in the minority there, just like I am in my acceptance of ties and dislike of the shootout. Maybe I'm just a weirdo who loves defensive players like Samuel Pahlsson, Jordan Staal and Dennis Seidenberg, or maybe I should watch more soccer, but I miss the days of triple and quadruple overtime games occurring somewhat regularly.

The Lockout didn't completely eradicate those playoff marathons and goaltending duels of the late ‘90s and early 2000's though. There was a taste of it back in 2007 when Roberto Luongo, untested in the playoffs went toe to toe with perennial playoff underachiever Marty Turco for seven games, including a 5-4 quadruple overtime epic in game one and two low scoring overtime battles. The way that the second round has shaped up in the Western Conference this year, it looks like my 13-year-old self is going to get to see some serious "Old Time Hockey."

Three of the five starting goalies remaining in the west (counting Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak as 1A and 1B) had regular season goals against averages of below two and Pekka Rinne's .923 save percentage is the worst of the bunch. Combining great goaltending with the defensive systems of Ken Hitchcock, Darryl Sutter, Dave Tippett and Barry Trotz it's quite possible that the three remaining series in the West won't combine for half as many goals as the Pens/Flyers scored. Low scoring means close games, increased chances of overtime, longer overtimes and more thrilling conclusions. Now that's what I call playoff hockey.

I could just be over romanticizing slow, plodding hockey, and after a few games I might find myself begging for the volatility of Pittsburgh/Philly (every minute of which I DVR'd by the way) but I think I'm idealizing it significantly less than other writers who fawn over the high flying glory days of the ‘80s. So, while everyone else dreads the Western Conference matchups I'm taking this opportunity to be more optimistic. I say bring on the shot blocking, neutral zone clogging, and giant goalies standing on their heads! Bring on the "Old Time Hockey!"