Overtime will be a little different next year in the NHL. In an effort to lower the number of shootouts, the NHL has gone to 3-on-3 skaters for five minutes instead of 4-on-4. This could really help the Nashville Predators.
The AHL tried something similar last year with a seven minute overtime that started 4-on-4 and moved to 3-on-3. 75 percent of their games were decided prior to a shootout. That was over a 35 percent increase from the year before with a 4-on-4 overtime. The NHL sat up and took notice.
They didn’t want to do away with the fan friendly shootout but they wanted to reduce the amount of times it happens. Now they’ve added the exciting 3-on-3 with a wide open ice for skilled skaters to find more room and provide more wide open offense.
Here is how it is going to work. Each team will have three skaters and a goalie for five sudden-death minutes. If there is a penalty, they will actually add a skater making it 4-on-3 and move to 5-on-3 if another penalty is taken. There will always be at least three skaters on the ice. If you pull your goalie and the other team shoots into the open net, you lose your one point earned for the tie at the end of regulation.
If the five minutes expires without a goal, they move to the same shootout rules that they’ve been using in previous years with three rounds of shooters, then moving to one round each until the game is decided.
You can bet the Peter Laviolette is doing his best “mad scientist” scheming to come up with the perfect plan for the new overtime. In this Tennesseean article he told Adam Vingan, “We’ll probably be learning on the fly a little bit as we go,” Laviolette said. “All of it presents new challenges. Anytime, I think, that rule changes come into play, you’ve got to figure out how you’re going to handle those rule changes, how you’re going to address them with your team. I think we’ll get there. We’ll figure that out once we get going.”
First of all, the Preds record in shootouts over the past two years is only 8 wins and 15 losses. They were 6 and 6 last year. It won’t take much to improve on that record. There are a lot of theories about what will make the best overtime schemes.
At the Preds Milwaukee AHL affiliate last year they tried to use short shifts and keep everyone fresh. Their thinking was that a fresh player could beat a fatigued player even if he had more skill. Most folks believe that teams will use two forwards and a defenseman for their shift.
I’ve seen some blogs trumpeting how unbeatable their team will be in 3-on-3. It’s pretty hard to argue with the Penguins Malkin–Crosby and Letang or the Blackhawks Toews–Kane and Duncan Keith. Tampa Bay and the Blues also envision strong first teams.
I believe that the Predators could be one of the best teams out there in the new overtime format. No matter how talented your first three players are out there, they will have just played a full game and won’t be able to stay out for a long shift. The Predators don’t have a couple of dominant scorers, they have a more balanced team with several skilled skaters that could excel on a bigger ice surface. And you only need two forwards at a time.
Mike Ribeiro and Neal, Forsberg and Smith, Colin Wilson and Fisher or Fiala, Cody Hodgson and Steve Moses. There isn’t much drop-off in any of those pairings. A lot of them have seen success on the bigger international ice which will help here.
Next, let’s look at the defensemen the Preds could play in this format. No team in the league could boast a lineup of puck moving, skilled passing, goal scoring defense like, Weber, Josi, Seth Jones, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm. Short shift them and keep them fresh.
The biggest weapon the Blue and Gold have is the big Finn in the nets though. No matter how skilled and talented the other teams’ threesomes are, they still have to put the puck past Pekka Rinne who seems to excel in these types of high pressure challenges. You can easily count on one hand the number of teams with a goaltender this capable of stealing an overtime win.
I got to watch the Predators prospect game last month and they played the entire third period in a 3-on-3 format. I’ve got to tell you that it was some kind of exciting. There were plenty of breakaways and some great scoring chances. And plenty of goals too. I can’t wait to see the boys in gold in the new overtime format this year. I think we are all going to love it.
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