NEWARK, New Jersey – The NHL is currently holding their GM meetings and there are many rule changes up for discussion, including coach’s challenges and faceoff protocol. But the one rule that seems to be stealing the headlines is the idea of using 3-on-3 in overtime.
The NHL is proposing an idea that is currently being employed by the American Hockey League. Overtime is extended to seven minutes. The first four-plus is the typical 4-on-4. Then after the next whistle the teams switch to 3-on-3. If the score is still tied after seven minutes then a shootout commences.
“I think it will help,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “They did it in the American League and seem to be getting good results with it. It seems like more games are decided in overtime. I’d rather see games end in overtime rather than go to a shootout.”
Crosby’s belief is the same as the league's. The NHL wants to have more games end in overtime rather than reach the shootout. One reason is that they want shootouts to be more rare, and thus more special. Another reason is so that the standings don’t become too askew from teams loading up on the extra shootout point.
“Teams are getting a lot of points now with the shootout," David Perron said. "It’s fun for the fans, but at the same time it’s 10, 12, 15 points you get in the year just from shootouts. I don’t think that’s part of the team sport that we play in. The 3-on-3 is more of a normal situation, though even that is stretching.”
Perron suggested a system of three points for a regulation win, two points for an overtime win and one point for a shootout win, with zero points for a loss. Though he was aware that scenario would be unlikely.
Defenseman Kris Letang also liked the idea of a 3-on-3. And while he thinks shootouts are fun and entertaining, Letang would like games to end in a tie after overtime.
“Start with three or four minutes of 4-on-4, after that two minutes of 3-on-3,” he said. “And if you can’t score it should be a tie.”
Skilled skaters and puck handlers like Letang would really flourish in a 3-on-3 setting. In fact, teams stacked with highly skilled players, like the Pens, would certainly benefit from the open ice during a 3-on-3.
“I like to have room out there,” Letang. “It would be more of an up-and-down type of game. If you have a couple skilled guys on the backend that can join the rush and make plays you want to use them a lot. If you want to go for the win, you might use three forwards.”
Forward Andrew Ebbett has spent the majority of the season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL and has seen the 3-on-3 format firsthand.
“It’s fun, I definitely like it,” Ebbett said. “It gets the fans up on their feet for the last two, three minutes of overtime. In my experience it’s been back and forth, a lot of 2-on-1s, sometimes 3-on-1s with a couple breakaways mixed in.
“I really liked it so far,” Ebbett said. “I’d like to see it in the NHL and what guys like ‘Sid’ and ‘Geno’ (Evgeni Malkin) can do with all that ice and that speed.”