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    Ah, May. The birds are singing, the grass is growing, and NHL refs’ whistles are barely blowing. It’s the playoffs, and that means hooks, slashes, and crosschecks are less illegal than they were in March and April.

    Every hockey fan knows the differences between the NHL regular season and playoffs. Among the major pro sports in this part of the world, there is no greater gulf in style and intensity when the two segments of the schedule are stacked up. A large cause for this divide is the shift in officials’ behavior.

    “There’s a lot more honesty on a lot of plays,” Seattle Kraken defenseman Vince Dunn told Kate Shefte of The Seattle Times on April 18. “Sometimes – not that it’s not a penalty – trips, and things are called when it’s kind of a meaningless or hopeless play. In the playoffs, they kind of let it slide. They want the play to go on, and they want more of a competitive atmosphere. It’s a lot more fun for us.”

    Officiating isn’t the only reason for this. It’s impossible for players to play with that insane level of commitment across a six-month, 82-game schedule that spans four time zones. Plus, the stakes are simply higher in the postseason than on any given night in January. But how the refs call the game does a lot to influence how teams approach the ice.

    To some, like Dunn, this change in attitude is a good thing. It brings a more physical version of hockey to the forefront, and players are made to really “earn it,” for lack of a better term. It enhances the passion and unpredictability of the playoffs, allowing less skilled teams improved odds to nullify more talented teams that might otherwise skate circles around them in the regular season. It’s all part of what makes the NHL postseason the best in North America. Sure, that means that a few penalties will be missed along the way, but hey, freedom ain’t free.

    But does it have to cost this much? Over the last decade, the NHL has reported a 45 percent increase in hits in playoff contests relative to regular season outings. The playoffs generally offer fewer goals than the regular season, too, as this was the case for 11 out of the 14 seasons between 2007-08 and 2020-21. However, this has coincided with a sharp uptick in scoring in the NHL, with the average goals per game in the league leaping from 5.42 in 2015-16, the lowest mark since 1956-57, to 6.36 in 2022-23, the highest average since 1993-94.

    It’s a strange dichotomy. The NHL of today is loaded with more skill, talent, and speed than we’ve ever seen. Players take significantly better care of their bodies, and training has been optimized to the nth degree. These guys aren’t just hockey players anymore, they’re athletes. And yet, when the brightest lights shine, the league allows a more physical, lenient style that makes it more difficult for its greatest assets – its players – to perform.

    The league has embraced this in the regular season. Tampa Bay led the league in fighting majors this past campaign with 37 total. Compare this to the NHL’s biggest fighters in 2008-09, the Anaheim Ducks, who earned 82 fighting majors as a team. A 2022 study by Frontiers in Sports and Active Living found a negative correlation between NHL fan attendance and fights per game. The same study also discovered a positive correlation between attendance and goals per game, though it wasn’t significant.

    Physicality is part of hockey, and it’s not something to shy away from, but it’s not necessary for it to change this drastically in April, either. So far this postseason, the Vegas-Winnipeg series leads the way in hits with an average of more than 106 per 60 minutes of game play. Using both teams’ regular season hitting averages, a regular season contest between the two would average almost 45 hits per 60 minutes played. The Maple Leafs and Lightning are hitting each other almost 90 times per 60 minutes through the first four games of their series, a 49 percent increase from their theoretical regular season average of just fewer than 46 hits in every 60 minutes.

    It doesn’t have to be this way. Playoff games don’t need to devolve into who can throw the most hits and muck up the game to disrupt their opponent enough for that coveted edge. NHL playoff officiating standards should change to match the regular season; they do not have to accommodate aggression for the playoffs to be chaotic and interesting.

    There will always be a stronger intensity in the playoffs no matter what. This is true for all human competitions. Once the stakes are do-or-die, something different comes out of people. The NHL doesn’t need to feed into that for it to be real. What is a penalty in October could still be a penalty in May, and the players wouldn’t play any less hard, and the fans wouldn’t be any less passionate.

    It’s equally unnecessary to tip the scales toward teams that prefer cluttered dysfunction to organized beauty for the sake of parity or preservation of some past that’s long gone. The sport of hockey is played with a rubber puck on ice – randomness is baked into the game. Some unknown scorching-hot goaltender will still occasionally carry his team on a deep run without his teammates cross-checking the opposition into submission, even if that would make it a bit easier.

    Swallowing the whistle does not let players determine games. Instead, you go against the clear trends of the sport’s present and future. Letting someone defend illegally to stop an opponent doesn’t put the power in the palms of the players, it ushers it into the hands of the guilty. In this common NHL Playoffs instance, forces outside of the players on the ice are altering outcomes.

    I want to see the immense skill of the modern NHL athlete on full display throughout the most important period of the year. If officials treated the postseason the same as the regular season, the playoffs would offer more opportunities for the greatest hockey players on earth to work their magic under the biggest lights, when the heads are most open to turning this way. Tell me how that wouldn’t be good for the game.

    NHL FAQs

    How do you play NHL Survivor Pool?

    In an NHL survivor pool, members choose one team from the Saturday games (or games for that week). Each team can only be picked once throughout the season. If they win, the member moves on to the next week. If they lose, the member is eliminated. The last member standing is the winner.

    What is NHL Survivor Pool?

    In an NHL survivor pool, each member picks one NHL team to win for the week. Each team can only be chosen once during the season. If their pick wins, the member moves on to the following week. If they do not win, the member is disqualified. The last one standing wins.

    How to make an NHL pool?

    You can just use a hockey pool hosting service like RunYourPool where we do all the work for you! Just sign up to create your own pool, customize your pool settings and invite your friends to play!

    How do you play NHL Pick'em Pool?

    In NHL Pick'em pools, members will pick the winner of games. The pool commissioner has options to have members pick all games or a specific amount. For each correct pick during regular season, members receive one point. The person with the most points at the end of season wins. Administrators can choose to have 'best bet' picks or 'confidence' points as well.

    What is NHL Pick'em Pool?

    NHL Pick'em pools have members select the outright winner of each game. The specific amount of games picked is up to the pool commissioner. For every correct pick, members receive one point. These pools typically end in the regular season, as the person with the most points wins. Also, commissioners can choose to have 'confidence' points or 'best bet ' picks.

    How to set up an NHL pool?

    To set up an NHL pool, you'll need to first choose a pool type like Survivor or Pick'em. Then, you'll need to set the ground rules. As pool commissioner, you'll enforce these rules and make sure the game runs smoothly throughout the season. Many commissioners use pool hosting sites like RunYourPool to make it easier and more engaging.

    How to run a weekly NHL pool?

    In order to run an NHL pool, you must first crown yourself as Pool Commissioner. Begin by picking a game type like Survivor or Pick'Em. You'll want to establish rules before inviting friends, family, and colleagues to join. As commissioner, you make the rules and also need to enforce them equally and fairly.

    How do you play NHL Playoff Pools Power Ranking?

    To play in an NHL Playoffs Power Ranking Pool, you need to assign a point value to each NHL team from highest (16) to lowest (1). When a team wins, they receive points based on the number you assigned to them! The member with the most points at the end of the playoffs wins.

    What is NHL Playoff Pools Power Ranking?

    An NHL Playoff Power Ranking Pool involves all members ranking all 16 NHL teams competing in the NHL Playoffs from strongest (16 points) to weakest (1 point). Members are awarded the number of points assigned to an NHL team when that team wins!

    How to run an NHL pool?

    How you decide to run a hockey pool varies greatly depending on the game type. In each case, however, you'll want to determine the rules and settings before you begin inviting members to join you. You'll want to clearly establish how score will be kept, how tiebreakers work, and how winners are decided before anything else.


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