The Pens spent a majority of Sunday’s practice working 3-on-3 in preparation for the NHL’s new overtime format.
The NHL adopted the new style for the upcoming season in the hopes of adding more excitement and avoiding the shootout to decide the outcome the game.
“It’s a team sport,” forward David Perron said. “A 3-on-3 is a lot better than going into a shootout, which puts a lot more pressure on the shooter or the goalie. I think I like the team aspect better.”
NHL coaches around the league are trying to figure out how to strategize and execute in the 3-on-3 scenario. Every team was allotted three 3-on-3 overtimes in the preseason to test it out. Pittsburgh scored in all three contests.
The Pens used some extra practice time to make sure they’re fine tuning their strategy.
“I thought the guys were good. They adapted well,” head coach Mike Johnston said. “The other thing it did was give us coaches a chance to watch longer 3-on-3 to see if there are any other things we want to tweak in it.”
As with most teams, when the puck is in the defensive zone the Pens will play man coverage. But when it is in the offensive zone, they’ll let their natural talents and abilities take over.
“We have a plan,” center Evgeni Malkin said. “In the D zone we play 1-on-1 of course. In the offensive zone you do what you want, control the puck, change sides, shoot the puck, go to the net. We just have to play smart in the D zone.”
The biggest area that teams can strategize will be on their player changes, both being smart with their switches and also using them to attack the opponent.
“You’ve heard a lot of coaches talk about 3-on-3 changes and for me that’s critical,” Johnston said. “You’ll see players on a 3-on-3 situation throw the puck back to the goaltender or defensemen, regroup together and then come back with some speed.”
And if a team can gain the offensive zone and have some possession time, they could change to get a rested player out against an opponent that has three tired players.
“Hopefully a couple changes in the O zone you’ll have them caught down there and you can get one or two fresh guys on the ice against their three tired guys, it could be pretty deadly,” Perron said.
And when the Pens are changing, it will behoove them to retreat deep into their own zone, change and then start the rush.
“You bring the puck back, you regroup and take your time,” Perron said. “Even if you have to bring it to the goalie, buy some time for the guys to change and get on the ice with fresh legs.”
There will be a lot of pressure on the players on the ice, but a lot of excitement for the fans in the stands.
“Every puck that you touch can be a deciding factor one way or the other. There is a lot more pressure,” Perron said.
NOTE: Pascal Dupuis left practice during the 3-on-3 session and did not skate on Monday. Head coach Mike Johnston said the winger had a "slight injury" and was held off as a precaution.
"At the end of the 3-on-3 when we were practicing yesterday, he just left the ice with a slight injury," Johnston said. "It was monitored today. They kept him off the ice this morning as more of a precaution. I don’t think it’s anything major. But as with all these things, you’re very cautious at the beginning of the year just with anything happening. But I expect over the next few days, we’ll know a little bit more. He may be back (Tuesday). "