All About 3-on-3 Overtime in the NHL

3-on-3 Overtime

Typically there are a few NHL rule changes each season, some are some and some end up being more substantial.  One of the exciting changes for the 2015-2016 NHL season is 3-on 3 overtime.  In case you were not aware each and every pre-season NHL game will be going to three on three OT.  What’s cool about this is that this should dramatically reduce the number of games decided by a shoot-out.  What is also cool about the new OT format is that this should result in more goals being scored which should contribute to higher points for the players (all you hoockey poolies take note).

The experiment with 3-on-3 OT was tried out in the American Hockey League (AHL) last year the number of shoot-outs went down from 64.7 percent in 2013-14 to 25 percent last season.  That is significant and the NHL is expecting a similar trend to what the AHL experienced last season.  The one difference is that the NHL is going straight to 3-on-3 as opposed to the hybrid approach used in the AHL where they started 4-on-4 until the first whistle following the third minute of 4-on-4 to which they then went to 3-on-3.  The NHL’s new OT will still consist of a five minute period of sudden death where the winner will be awarded the extra point.  If a team is penalized, they will never play with fewer than three skaters on the ice.  If a team is two men short the teams will play 5-on-3.    Other notable points to this rule:

  • at the end of regulation time, the goaltenders will switch sides resulting in the long change for teams (same as the second period)
  • the ice will be scraped for snow
  • if not one scores in OT, the ice will be scraped before the shoot-out as it currently is

There is not yet an established way to defend against 3-on 3 play so really the coaches will have no excuse not to use their most skilled players.  As we’ve seen in the pre-season thus far, there will be a lot of end-to-end rushes and breakaways.  The Oilers/Jets preseason yesterday was a good example of this.  It will be interesting to see if at the NHL levels coaches opt to send on three forwards or deploy a two forward one defensemen set up.  Apparently last season in the AHL, the three forward strategy did not work so well.  From what we’ve seen we have enjoyed the Over-Time action.  Based on ore-season games played as of September 22, 10 out of 11 games were settled in Overtime.  The NHL needs offensive creativity and this is one way to tap into that.  Hopefully coaches do not develop a defensive-minded trap approach to defend against this.  Play for the win not the loss is all we can say.

Of course there will be teams that benefit and teams that struggle with the new 3-on 3 Overtime format.

NHL 3-on-3 Overtime

Teams That Should Benefit from 3-on-3 Overtime

So which teams will benefit the most from 3-on-3 OT?  Well you have to think that teams will the following criteria should benefit the most:

  • Teams with strong puck moving defensemen
  • Teams with quick transition games
  • Teams with quick, skilled forwards
  • Teams that can rely on goaltenders to make a breakaway save
  • Teams with great puckhandling goaltenders
  • Teams with players that can finish on a break away

Based on this criteria we feel the five teams that will benefit most from 3-on-3 OT will be:

  1. Edmonton Oilers – with all of their young talent and the fact that in recent years this team has played in a lot of one goal games you have to think that the revived Oilers should do well with this new three on three overtime format.  The Oilers were 5-7 in shoot-outs last season and receive 14 points from OT games.
  2. Chicago Blackhawks – the defending champions have it all, puck moving d-men, skilled forwards and solid goaltending.  They will definitely win more than they lose in overtime as evidenced by last season’s 9-3 shootout record.
  3. Anaheim Ducks – lots of firepower and talent on this team.  The Ducks were 8-5 in shootouts last season.
  4. St. Louis Blues – talented team that went to a shootout 13 times last season where the Blues posted a 9-4 record.
  5. Washington Capitals – lots of firepower and some solid goaltending might bold well for the Caps as any team with Ovie will definitely want to try and score with all of that open ice.

Teams That May Struggle with 3-on-3 Overtime

Of course there is the other end of the spectrum and there will be teams who play a lot of tight games and as a result go to overtime more often than not.  Here is a look at five teams that may struggle with 3-on-3 OT this season:

  1. Florida Panthers – these guys went to extra time a lot last season.  They were 8-10 in the shootout and 15 points in overtime last season, second only to Philadelphia’s 18.
  2. Columbus Blue Jackets – the Jackets played in a lot of one goal games last season but only recorded 5 points in overtime.  Oddly enough they had a 9-2 record in shootouts so they may continue to try to play for the shootout.
  3. New Jersey Devils – the Devils also played in a lot of one goal games but they do not have as much talent as the Blue Jackets and could struggle with the new 3-on-3 overtime.
  4. Carolina Hurricanes – this is just a bad team and we cannot see the Canes doing well this season.  Perhaps this is your 30th overall finisher.  OT may not be kind to these guys, but then again you never know.
  5. Toronto Maple Leafs – not a lot of firepower on this rebuilding squad.  Also not sure if the Leafs have a strong enough puck moving defenseman to handle the quick pace of three on three overtime.

We like what we have seen with the 3-on-3 sudden death overtime thus far.  The novelty of the shootout has worn off.  The greatest thing that we like about the new OT format is that it will settle a lot more games and the goals scored and points scored in overtime will actually count towards the players totals for the season so may a 25 goal score becomes a 30 goal scorer and so on.  The NHL needs more of that.  We need more 100 point players and 50 goal scorers.  With the parity in the league you know that there will be a a lot of one goal games.  The new overtime format will simply help settle those a little sooner than going to a skills competition event aka shootout.  We will miss some of the fun of the shootout as seen here from Linus Omark: