It’s difficult for NHL teams to get into a rhythm when referees are blowing whistles at an alarming rate, creating a parade to the penalty box.
Such has been the case in exhibition games because of the league’s tighter enforcement of faceoff and slashing rules. The NHL is trying reduce slashing injuries and hoping to curb cheating on draws.
“Not sure my dad would have ever won a faceoff under the new rules,” tweeted Jody Clarke, daughter of Flyers legend Bob Clarke. “I’ve been told he was the league’s ‘best cheater’ in the circle.”
Funny line, but today’s players aren’t laughing.
After the Bruins’ 2-1 overtime win Thursday over the Flyers, Boston’s Brad Marchand unloaded on the stricter faceoff rules.
“It’s really taking a lot away from the games,” he said. “”You can’t have a winger taking every faceoff. If you look at the percentages and how many times guys got kicked out (Thursday) — and what it’s taken away from teams — it’s not worth it.”
Marchand said both teams were “literally laughing about how bad the rule is. It’s becoming a big joke. There’s got to be something tweaked, I think, because these games are painful to be a part of.”
The Flyers received nine power plays against Boston, which was called for four slashing penalties and a faceoff violation. The Flyers committed five penalties, including three for slashing.
Slashes to the gloves are being penalized in the preseason.
“We’ll see how it shakes out,” goalie Brian Elliott said. “The slash to the hands, I think guys just do it without thinking and it’s just naturally in their games, so I think it’s going to catch up with some of them. It seems like a little ticky-tack call right now, but if you get that out of the game, it’ll clean up the game a little bit.”
“Maybe,” he said, hoping he is wrong, “it’ll create more offense. We’ll see.”
The Flyers’ Claude Giroux, one of the NHL’s best in the faceoff circle, won 20 of 25 (80 percent) draws Thursday.
Giroux is unfazed by the way the faceoff rules are being enforced in the preseason. “I don’t mind it,” he said after Sunday’s practice in Voorhees. “It’s impossible to cheat now on faceoffs. With some guys, it’s kind of a skill to cheat. I think (officials) will stick with it. If they do, it’s good. Guys won’t be trying to cheat because they want to stay in the faceoff circle.”
On Friday, Giroux said players need to make adjustments on faceoffs if referees continue calling games like they have in exhibition games.
“It’s definitely different. You can’t tie up guys or use your skate or do whatever you have to do,” said Giroux, who earlier in his career received faceoff tutelage from Clarke. “It’s pretty strict that it’s blade against blade. It’s interesting, and since I’m a center man, I’ve been getting tricks here and there. But you can’t really use that anymore, so it’s kind of like going back and starting from zero. Just trying to find new tricks.”
While Giroux says he thinks the stricter slashing and faceoff calls will carry into the regular season, teammate Jake Voracek says officials will revert to last year’s enforcement of the rules when the games count.
If not, special teams, already a major part of games, will have even greater significance.