An In-Depth Look at 3-on-3 Overtime

Two weeks into a fresh NHL season and the 3-on-3 overtime has yet to disappoint anyone. It has allowed for wide open play, odd-man rushes and spectacular saves. But how effective is it a cutting down on the number of shootouts in games? Lets take a look at some interesting stats from the first two weeks of the NHL regular season.

Through the first 87 games of the season (through Tuesday night), 13 games have gone to the extra frame. Of those 13 games, eight have ended in overtime and five have ended in a shootout. That means 62 percent of the games that have gone to overtime have ended within the five-minute period. In fact, the average time of the games that have ended in overtime is just 2 minutes and 3 seconds.

The really interesting part is when you compare these numbers to last season.

Through the first 87 games of 2014, when the league still had 4-on-4, the numbers looked a lot different. Twenty-six of the first 87 went to overtime, and of those games, 15 went into a shootout and only 11 ended in overtime. To put things in perspective, that means just 42 percent were decided in overtime. What’s even more interesting is that the average time of games that ended in overtime was 2 minutes and 50 seconds.

What’s even more astounding is when you compare the first 13 overtime games of both seasons (since that’s all we’ve had so far this year). In 2014, nine of those 13 ended in a shootout. In 2015, as I said above, just five have ended in a shootout.

We saw a new overtime format transform the dynamic of overtime in the AHL last season. This season, the NHL implemented it, and it has already increased the amount of games decided in overtime by 20 percent. That is a welcomed change for many teams, and many fans who see the shootout as just a skills competition. Everyone seems to be jumping on the bandwagon, except for maybe a few goalies.

The compelling part of all of this, is that teams are going to adapt to the new overtime format. As we saw in the first 3-on-3 overtime between Philadelphia and Tampa Bay, the two teams didn’t know what to expect or what to do. The Flyers were awarded a penalty shot off of a stick infraction during overtime, and Tampa Bay had a defenseman win the game on a breakaway goal. Talk about anomalies. There’s also the fact that teams may be more defensively oriented in the overtime since there are so many opportunities for odd-man rushes. That will probably start to change as teams learn how to effectively use their players on the ice.

Three-on-three overtime has already had its impact in the NHL, and one thing is certain, it has not disappointed.