CALGARY, AB -- The NHL is about to enter a new era to decide the outcome of tied games and the Calgary Flames should be one of the top beneficiaries.
In an effort to see fewer shootouts settle the outcome of a hockey game, the NHL has implemented a five-minute, 3-on-3 overtime session and if the pre-season is any indication, this will drastically reduce the number of shootouts.
Like it or hate it, it's here to stay.
Although, the early consensus among fans seems to be an overwhelming thumbs-up for the new format.
The Flames have already participated in two sessions of this brand of firewagon pond-hockey with perfect results. Calgary is 2-0 in the early going and although it's only pre-season, the Flames could be one of the most feared teams in the extra frame.
"It's a lot of fun. It's kind of a form of summer hockey, at the end of skates where you're playing inside the blueline 3-on-3," said Josh Jooris, the overtime hero Saturday in Vancouver. "It's just fun hockey to go out there and see guys use their skill. It's tough to defend, too. You have to make sure you have good body position at all times and your line changes are good.
"I think it's great for the game and it's great to let the skilled guys do their thing out there."
Matt Stajan, who threaded the needle on Jooris' winner when he spotted him wide open, streaking through the slot, admitted the strategy behind 3-on-3 is interesting.
"It's a lot of fun, that's for sure," said Stajan, minutes removed from his first taste of 3-on-3. "Everybody thinks you've got to put the fastest guy out there and that's the key but you've got to really be smart with the puck and not give it away. It's all about give-and-go's and catching a guy. I caught Juice off the bench and he beat his guy and it created an opening."
Kris Russell jumped on the ice and took advantage of a couple of Vancouver Canucks defenders that were out of gas and walked in from the point untouched to beat Jacob Markstrom on Friday at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
"Puck possession is huge and faceoffs are big," Russell said. "It's the little details in 3-on-3 that are going to be very important. [Dennis Wideman] made a great change and I got out there with some energy and caught the guys out there that were tired. It's different. We're going to have to watch tape. There's a lot of room and a lot of skating."
What makes the Flames so dangerous is their crop of talented defenceman. Most, if not all, teams boast enough firepower up front to be considered a threat in 3-on-3, but only a handful of teams have a blueline as deep -- and skilled -- as Calgary's and can deploy numerous combinations in the extra frame.
The options for Bob Hartley are aplenty.
He could probably close his eyes and play eeny, meeny, miny, moe when selecting rearguards to skate in overtime.
As for an approach to 3-on-3, Hartley suggested it all comes down to who makes the first blunder.
"It's just like a saloon door -- it flops on both sides," Hartley chuckled. "It's great, I think that the fans will love it. It's one mistake and you're in trouble and they make a mistake and they’re in trouble -- it's a simple as that. Let’s face it, it’s all the most skilled players, the best players that are on the ice which makes for unbelievable hockey."
Calgary has already demonstrated to the rest of the league that they can be successful when there's more ice to work with. The Flames found the back of the net 14 times last season playing 4-on-4, no team scored more in that situation. In fact, only six teams scored north of 9 goals 4-on-4. Calgary was also tied with the Boston Bruins for the most overtime victories of 2014-15 with 9.
The question is more about strategy. Do you go with two defenceman and one forward? One defenceman and two forwards? Speed over IQ? Skill over speed? Do you change your goaltender in favour of a netminder with better puck-handling skills? How about three forwards? Three defenceman?
These questions and more will be answered in the coming months.
Here's a look at some intriguing trios we could see in 3-on-3 overtime:
1. D - Giordano, F - Gaudreau, D - Brodie
Although Brodie is sidelined with a broken bone in his right hand, he won’t be on the shelf long. When he returns you can bet he'll be in Hartley's plans when the Flames reach overtime. Alongside Giordano, his defensive partner most of last season, the two created all kinds of offence. Adding the ultra-speedy and skilled Gaudreau to the mix could make this threesome difficult to contain.
2. F - Gaudreau, F - Monahan, F - Hudler
The "let's get this over quick" mentality. Imagine sending arguably the three most skilled players in the Flames lineup over the boards for 3-on-3. We know they have chemistry, which was obvious last season when they ripped it up after the calendar changed to 2015. One of the hottest line combinations in the league at the tail end of the season. This trio is high-risk, high-reward.
3. D - Giordano, F - Gaudreau, F - Hudler
What about combining the two most skilled forwards with one of the best blueliners in the game? Giordano's offensive skills still fly under the radar for most people living outside of the 403 and 587 area codes. This combination would be a lot of fun to watch.
4. D - Russell, F - Monahan, F - Hudler
I like the Hudler-Monahan duo a lot. Like Stajan said, it's not all about the speed. Hudler and Monahan, while not the fastest guys, could provide some of the most creative offense you will see. Throw Russell out there, a blood-and-guts kind of guy, you just might have a winner. Monahan is always in the right place at the right time -- a natural goal-scorer -- and Russell and Hudler could easily compliment that.
5. D - Giordano, F - Frolik, D - Hamilton
Giordano and Hamilton have shown some early season chemistry and both have a penchant for jumping into the rush without warning. Hamilton's long strides could fool defenders who might underestimate his speed. Remember, beat one guy and it's a 2-on-1. Frolik is basically just good at everything. He's shown he can finish and there's no question he could finish on this line.
6. D - Wideman, F - Backlund, F - Frolik
Giordano, Hudler, Monahan and Gaudreau can't play five minutes of 3-on-3 so we need to deploy some other combos. Hartley still has plenty of ammo in his gun and this triplet could be a secret weapon. Some were surprised to see Wideman on the ice in overtime on Friday but it's tough to question putting one of the league's top-scoring defenceman last season on the ice. Wideman's ability to get pucks to the net might be a big factor. Backlund and Frolik seem like a natural paring up front -- both responsible defensively and both can provide productive offense.
7. D - Brodie, F - Bennett, F - Byron
Let’s just call this the "Triple B" unit. And buzzing is exactly what they could do. Byron has a knack for using his speed to burst ahead of defenders and find open space while Brodie's tape-to-tape precision passing would complement that. Bennett could be on any one of these lines and not be a liability. What makes him so threatening is his compete level. Bennett will do whatever it takes to win and skating alongside Brodie and Byron in 3-on-3 overtime will likely result in just that.
Author: Jason Johnson | CalgaryFlames.com |
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