The NHL enacted a new overtime format this offseason, turning to a 3-on-3 format. Instead of the former 5-on-5 for five minutes which led to a lot of shootouts they adopted the overtime that the AHL tested in a form last season. They were hoping that it could reduce shootouts to 20-25% of games with extra time needed.
Shootout Pctg Chart from The Hockey News
Previously, as shown in the chart on the right from The Hockey News, close to 60% of games were going to a shootout in the NHL. In this article a couple of months ago, we outlined why the Predators would like the new format in overtime. That was counting on the fact that the games were going to be an all-out up-and-down the ice craziness.
In the preseason where every team had at least three chances to practice the overtime, it was just that way. There were plenty of breakaways and games ended early, usually in the first couple of minutes. Everyone was kind of blown away by how exciting it was and looking forward to the regular season. There were some naysayers that said the NHL coaches would find a way to make it less of a wild and crazy format soon, but how could they do that?
Well, we are starting to see it already. The Predators are one of only a couple of teams that have been to the shootout twice. A good thing for them as they won both of them. The 3-on-3 overtime was nothing like the practice overtimes we saw in the preseason, though. Both of the games that the Preds played had overtimes that were much more deliberate and careful. There were a couple of breakaways but nothing like was expected.
Peter Laviolette said earlier this year that the thing they were most worried about in the new format was line changes. When he studied the AHL version, it seemed that most of the breakaways and goals were scored because a team had a hard time getting players changed out with the smaller number of players. That is something that teams are guarding against.
We saw in both of the Preds overtimes that teams would take the puck back and hold it in their own end to make sure that the other players were able to get on the ice as opposed to the “on the fly” changes made in regulation. This slows the overtime craziness down a bit as they make sure that the other team isn’t able to get an odd man rush.
The Buffalo News reported much of the same in last night’s game between the Sabres and Maple Leafs. They went through the overtime and resulted in a shootout too. Dan Bylsma, the Sabres coach noticed the same thing that we have in their game:
"“We need to get better at it,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said of the three-on-three format. “We remarked coming in, it was a lot more controlled and slower. Two times, we got an odd-man rush with O’Reilly and Kane they got an odd-man rush the other way, but it was fairly controlled. They had a fair amount of offensive zone time with the puck. You’re looking for one turnover to kind of explode out of it and get an odd-man rush. It was fairly controlled and slow.”"
That was their first time in the new format during the regular season, but we think you will see a lot more coaches going to the slow-down and wait for an opportunity style of play instead of just charging ahead and trying to see if you can get an odd-man rush. This will probably lead to a lot more shootouts than the NHL intended when they implemented the change.
It’s pretty hard to come up with something that these smart NHL coaches can’t figure out a corresponding move for. We will see how it works out, but it sure is looking like the new overtime will be a little less wild and wooly than originally thought.
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