Couch Potato Alert: 3/6

If you could pry yourself away from the televised coverage of the T.O. ordeal for just one minute, you could tune in to a couple of key marquee matchups on the hardwood this weekend. It begins with Cleveland visiting Boston tonight, and with a victory the Cavs can confirm their status as a legitimate title contender. They’re no longer LeBron James and the Cavalettes coming to your favorite NBA arena. On Saturday, it’s #1 UConn versus #4 Pittsburgh in a crucial Big East matchup. Then, travel down Tobacco Road for Duke-North Carolina in an ACC heavyweight matchup this Sunday. This could be a dress rehearsal for next week’s conference tournament final, with the winner getting a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

All times ET…

College Basketball
Saturday, 12 PM: #1 Connecticut @ #4 Pittsburgh (CBS)
Saturday, 2 PM: #25 Syracuse @ #14 Marquette (ESPN Full Court)
Sunday, 12 PM: #20 Purdue @ #8 Michigan State (CBS)
Sunday, 4 PM: #7 Duke @ #2 North Carolina (CBS)
Sunday, 6 PM: #19 Clemson @ #10 Wake Forest (Fox Sports Net)

NBA
Friday, 8 PM: Cleveland Cavaliers @ Boston Celtics (ESPN)
Friday, 10:30 PM: Denver Nuggets @ Utah Jazz (ESPN)
Saturday, 8:30 PM: Washington Wizards @ Dallas Mavericks (NBA TV)
Sunday, 3:30 PM: Phoenix Suns @ San Antonio Spurs (ABC)
Sunday, 7 PM: Philadelphia 76ers @ Oklahoma City Thunder (NBA TV)

NHL
Saturday, 1 PM: Chicago Black Hawks @ Boston Bruins
Saturday, 10 PM: San Jose Sharks @ Vancouver Canucks (CBC)
Sunday, 12:30 PM: Boston Bruins @ New York Rangers (NBC)

World Baseball Classic
Saturday, 2 PM: Canada vs. United States from the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada (ESPN)

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The NHL is contemplating changing the size of goal

For years, hockey players have complained that with the added height to the current crop of goaltenders in the NHL and the amount of equipment they wear in a game, it leaves them little net space to place an accurate shot on goal. League management recently unveiled a prototype goal in Toronto for a puck-shooting demonstration and intimated that it could be used in a game by next season. This has brought a continuous debate back to the front burner again in hockey: should the NHL increase the size and dimension of the goal net to increase scoring in the league?

Many believe that increase scoring in the league will generate more fan interest in hockey. The last discussion of a possible net change was in 2007, and that involved changing the size to a “soccer-styled” net. This was a ploy by the NHLPA to decrease the size of the goaltender’s equipment, which was changed the following off-season.

The proposed goal will still stand six feet wide and four feet high, but the noticeable change will be replacing the circular post with an oval-shaped design that will have a flatter, longer crossbar on the inside of the goal. The hope is that shots on net will have a better chance of ricocheting in for a goal instead of bounding off into the corner.

The initial results from the demonstration were that the pucks were indeed going into the net after hitting the crossbar on a shot attempt. Shots on the short side post were also going into the net, but fewer shots were going into the net off the far post. Those attempts still tended to go into the corner.

Hockey purists will argue that changing the size of the goal net would be committing a mortal sin in the sport. Its equivalent would be shortening the field of play by 10 yards in the NFL or increasing the rim size in the NBA. They’ll argue that hockey isn’t all about scoring goals.

Entertaining hockey can be defined by good offensive flow with back and forth scoring opportunities from each team. The main problem in the NHL is clogged neutral zone play, as larger, non-athletic players deliberately slow down the more skilled, faster players with a forecheck at center ice. Coaches have implemented a more defensive-minded system to prevent big offensive games from the talented players in the league.

Every change in hockey has tried to add more offense to the game. Scorers cannot always hit their target and making the net larger will give them a little more margin for error. Instead of changing the net, perhaps widening the ice surface would allow for better offensive flow. Ultimately, it will come down to what the players want.

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