The debate about the NHL three-on-three overtime format has subsided, but the recent rule change still has its detractors. Like it or not, teams must learn how to be effective three-on-three or it will cost them precious points.
Ducks’ Three-on-Three Record
Since the NHL switched to the three-on-three format prior to the 2015-16 season, 20 of Anaheim’s games have been decided in overtime, 11 from the 2015-16 season and the remaining nine from this season. The Ducks won just five of 20, and they’re trending in the wrong direction.
This season, the team has a paltry 1-8 record, and their lone win came against the lowly Arizona Coyotes after Arizona goaltender Mike Smith handed rookie Ondrej Kase a gift-wrapped game-winning goal.
What’s most disappointing about the eight losses is that most of them came in games that could have been a major boost to the team’s confidence. Sunday night’s contest against the St. Louis Blues was touted as a measuring stick game for the Ducks. They came up short (pardon the pun) after captain Ryan Getzlaf blew his coverage assignment to lazily slap Jaden Schwartz with his stick as the Blues entered the offensive zone.
They had a two-goal lead at the midway point of the second period against Vancouver on Dec. 30, but blew it and lost in overtime. Jakub Silfverberg forced overtime on Dec. 27 against the San Jose Sharks thanks to a late third period game-tying goal. Unfortunately, they let the opportunity to steal a point from a division rival and the defending Western Conference champion slip away in overtime. The overtime loss was their second to a divisional opponent in the month of December and second against the Sharks this season. It was also their second overtime loss in a row, with an OT loss to the Ottawa Senators five days prior.
In November, they lost twice overtime, on the 9th against Columbus and the 22nd against the New York Islanders. And in both of these games, the Ducks tied the score in the third period only to fall in overtime. Anaheim also lost the Islanders’ home opener in OT on Oct. 16. John Tavares made it 2-0 midway through the third period in a game dominated by the Islanders. Cam Fowler brought the Ducks within a goal 32 seconds later and Getzlaf tied the game with a minute left and the net empty. Unfortunately, Anaheim blew their chance when Josh Bailey walked through all four white sweaters to put away the OT winner.
European skaters have scored the game-winner in four of Anaheim’s five overtime wins. Rakell led the team with two overtime game-winning goals last season, while Silfverberg and Getzlaf provided the other two. Ondrej Kase gets credit for the only overtime game-winner this season.
Call it a hunch, but I think the Ducks should lean on their European players in overtime until the stench of their three-on-three play has dissipated. There’s something to be said about the fact that players born and trained in Europe have developed their skills on the much wider European rinks, and tend to be more comfortable playing with more space.
Trust in Ricky
Rakell would be my go-to guy for the three-on-three format. He is a sniper who is among the team leaders in almost every goal-scoring statistic.
His 21.7 percent shooting percentage this season leads the team. He’s also tied for the lead in goals with 18, and game-winning goals with four. I’d like to see head coach Randy Carlyle start sending Rakell out for every other shift in OT. He’s too dangerous when given space to leave him sitting for long.
Three-on-three overtime is made for players like Rakell who have the hands, agility and vision to capitalize on the extra space. Plus, have you seen his overtime game-winner against Edmonton from last season? Whatever Carlyle and the Ducks coaching staff decides to do, something has to change in their approach to three-on-three overtime because the Ducks’ play in the extra session has been downright embarrassing.