First and foremost, in an effort to minimize the amount of shootouts, a five-minute three-on-three overtime period has replaced four-on-four overtime. If a game still is tied after the three-on-three overtime, a shootout will be staged.
Each team tried out the new three-on-three overtime session in the preseason a few times, including the Coyotes, who played three exhibition three-on-three sessions.
Because of the seemingly constant end-to-end action, fans seemed to enjoy the new format in the preseason. The players enjoyed it, too.
“I loved it,” Coyotes forward Mikkel Boedker said. “I think it’s going to be a lot of fun and very challenging. There’s a lot of room out there and areas you have to protect and cover, but I think in the long run it will be a lot of fun.”
Defenseman Connor Murphy agrees.
“I think it’s great,” Murphy said. “The League knows how frustrated everyone is about the shootout just because it’s such a toss-up and it doesn’t really give you the answer as to which team is better in that game. The three-on-three is way better. The hardest thing is the line changes and knowing when to change. Guys were getting stuck out there in the preseason and got tired and were slow getting to the bench. If you’re going slow to the bench you’re done; you’re going to give up odd-number chances. That happened a lot.”
Boedker said puck possession is crucial to success in the three-on-three overtime.
“You just have to make sure your team has the puck and that you make the other team chase the puck,” Boedker said. “Once a mistake is made or a good move is made, all of a sudden you have the advantage. That’s the biggest thing - to make the other team make mistakes.”
So, what does goalie Mike Smith think about three-on-three overtime?
“It’s definitely going to be interesting,” Smith said. “There are going to be unbelievable chances and unbelievable saves and unbelievable goals. But I think it was (New Jersey goalie) Corey Schneider that brought up that (nobody thought about) goals-against averages are going to go up in the League because of three-on-three hockey… It adds a goal a game, that’s for sure.”
Smith played only one brief session of three-on-three overtime in the preseason, but at one point during that period he skated the puck up the ice, nearly to the top of the circles in his zone, as if he wanted to be part of the action in the offensive zone at the other end.
“There is going be opportunity for me to get involved (offensively), but I’m there to stop the puck,” Smith said. “We’ll see how it plays out but obviously there’s not very many men on the ice and if you have a goalie that can be the fourth man out there then it definitely plays to an advantage.”
Anther rule change involves face-off protocol.
From the NHL: “At the eight face-off spots (excluding center ice face-off spot), the defending player shall place his stick within the designated white area first followed immediately by the attacking player.”
In past years, the road team player was required to place his stick on the ice first.
Coyotes center Martin Hanzal, who won 56.5 percent of his face-offs last season, says it’s a significant change.
“I think it’s a big deal, especially on the special teams,” Hanzal said. “Obviously the League wants more goals and I actually like that, but you have to adjust a few things (in the circles). Any small advantage is a huge deal so you have to keep thinking for every single face-off and you have to make sure you are ready right away.”
Antoine Vermette, who won 55.3 percent of his draws a year ago, likes the new rule.
“I’m good with that if it generates more offense,” Vermette aid. “I’m all for that. It’s not a problem for me.”
The NHL also has introduced a Coach’s Challenge on goals scored by the opposing team. However, a team may only request a Coach's Challenge to review an "Off-Side" play leading to a goal or scoring plays involving potential "Interference on the Goalkeeper."
Per the NHL: “A team may only request a Coach's Challenge if they have their time-out available and the Coach's Challenge must be effectively initiated prior to the resumption of play.
If the Coach's Challenge does not result in the original call on the ice being overturned, the team exercising such challenge will forfeit its time-out. If the Coach's Challenge does result in the call on the ice being overturned, the team successfully exercising such challenge will retain its time-out.”
Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said his staff is well prepared for the new rule and he welcomes it.
“It’s just about getting calls right,” Tippett said. “It’s an opportunity to get a call right and anytime you can do that, as long as it doesn’t delay the game too much, that’s a good thing.”
Asked what he’d say to purists who argue the Coach’s Challenge is unnecessary, Tippett said: “The game has to evolve and this is about making the game better and trying to take as much error out of it as we can.”Click here to read more about these rule changes