Last month the NHL board of governors announced that in the coming season NHL regular season games would feature a 3 on 3 overtime instead of the standard 4 on 4.
The purpose of this move is to reduce the number of shootouts that are needed on a day-to-day basis to decide winners of games. When the shootout was first introduced it was the talk of the hockey world but after several years it rubs most people as a gimmick more than anything else. Also, many people did not appreciate the fact that in most cases, the start of the shootout meant that around 15 or so players from each team were guaranteed to not be involved in how the game was decided.
How it Works
At the conclusion of regulation, if the score is tied, the teams will start a 3 on 3 overtime just as they did the 4 on 4 in previous seasons. The overtime period will still be five minutes in length and will continue to be sudden death. At no time will a team have less than three skaters on the ice. So if a player is called for a penalty in the overtime he will sit in the box while the other team will add a player to the ice making it a 4 on 3 power play. If the same team committees another penalty before the first expires then the advantage will become 5 on 3.
If at the end of the five minutes the score remains tied standard shoot out protocol from previous seasons will be used. One last rule to note, if a team pulls their goalie in the overtime period and the opposing team scores on the empty net, the losing team forfeits the one point in the standings it earned by making it to overtime. Everybody knows Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy loves to pull his goalies but it does not look like it will happen in the overtime period.
How it Benefits the Avalanche
The core of the Avalanche is built around young players with pure speed. The Avalanche could put all their eggs in one basket and it would be scary to any team that is tasked with defending them. Matt Duchene has shown time and time again what his speed can do since he joined the Avalanche in 2009. Unfortunately for the other teams in the league on the ice in a 3 on 3 situation will just give Duchene more space to do stuff like this.
If Duchene is fast, Nathan MacKinnon is even better. The first overall pick by the Avalanche in 2013 certainly suffered from the sophomore slump this past season and is looking to rebound. MacKinnon had an excellent rookie season that resulted in him being named the Rookie of the year and being rewarded the Calder Trophy. MacKinnon was so successful because every game he surprised guys that were not familiar with him. The old saying “if your even, he’s leavin” was made for MacKinnon. Any defender going against MacKinnon better hope they have three or four strides on him before he hits his next gear or this is going to happen a lot.
These two speedsters up front would be enough of a challenge on any team in a 3 on 3 situation. However, the Avalanche have one more ace in the hole they can add to the back-end. Tyson Barrie has risen to the occasion the past season and a half for the Avalanche. He is slowly becoming feared as one of the best offensive defenceman in the entire NHL.
He has been given the green light from the Avalanche coaching staff to jump up into a play whenever he sees fit. The Avalanche understand this often leads to opportunities going against them but they have enough faith in Barrie to accept that risk.
Despite being a defenceman, Barrie scores goals from all over the offensive zone. He scores just as many, if not more, goals from the hash marks as he does from the point. In a situation of play that only features three players a side Barrie is even more likely to jump into the play and trying to catch the other team off guard.
A trio of Duchene, MacKinnon, and Barrie is a deadly combination and the best news for the Avalanche is that even with these three on the ice together, they can easily put another threesome together that would be just as effective.
Yes, every team will have the same opportunity to capitalize on the 3 on 3 play and the Avalanche will not win every game they get to overtime. In the end speed kills and it can not be taught. The past two season goaltender Semyon Varlamov has shown he is arguably the best goalie in the shootouts but with this new format hopefully he will see less of them.
The NHL wants to cut down on the number of shootouts in a season and it seems like they now have a plan in place to do that. The fans are in for a real treat when these top caliber NHL players have so much open ice to work with. Hopefully the Avalanche will take advantage of the open ice, as well as their speed, and end more games in overtime instead of a shootout.
I am a University of New Mexico journalism student who has been watching NHL hockey since 1996 and I started playing hockey myself in 2003. I have covered both college soccer and volleyball in the past and I also contribute to a NASCAR news website.