3-on-3 overtimes in NHL will be entertaining

By on October 9, 2015
(Photo by Gregg Forwerck, Carolina Hurricanes)

(Photo by Gregg Forwerck, Carolina Hurricanes)

RALEIGH — “Organized chaos.”

That’s how Carolina Hurricanes coach Bill Peters describes the 3-on-3 overtime setup that’s new to the National Hockey League this season.

There is so much open ice that it makes for some fascinating, entertaining — and sometimes strange — hockey that will likely mean fewer shootouts.

“It’s organized chaos,” Peters said. “Once one team gets into a rush, I don’t know how you defend it back going the other way. Once there’s a grade A [chance], there’s going to be another one going the other way.”

Even if it does prevent a shootout, it still will likely allow many chances that almost look like shootouts as skaters quickly take the puck the other way and find themselves
one-on-one against the opposing goalie.

“That was a bizarre five minutes of hockey there,” Peters said of overtime during the Hurricanes’ 4–3 shootout win over the Washington Capitals in an exhibition last week. “There were two whistles in the five minutes and I thought both teams had real good looks.”

The Canes open the season Thursday night on the road against the Nashville Predators, then face the Detroit Red Wings in their home opener on Saturday night.

In that last exhibition overtime, first-year Canes goalie Eddie Lack made a couple of terrific saves on point-blank shots, including one on shootout specialist T.J. Oshie.

“Obviously it’s going to be a lot of open ice and a lot of fun for the crowd,” said Lack, who gave up a shootout goal to Oshie. “It’s kind of fun when you’re making the saves. But, obviously, it’s going to be a lot more goals than with the 4-on-4 play, so it’s going to be a bit of an adjustment. But I feel like we’re coming along good with the 3-on-3 in this locker room.”

That seems to be how players are approaching it. It’s fun to be out there, but it’s a bit of a high-wire act.

(Photo by Gregg Forwerck, Carolina Hurricanes)

(Photo by Gregg Forwerck, Carolina Hurricanes)

“It’s nerve-wracking, but I love it,” Carolina left wing Nathan Gerbe said. “You want to be out there for those times. You get to see, obviously, a big skill level for the fans, so it’s got to be something that is exciting for them to watch. I know that it’s exciting for us and nerve-wracking at the same time. I love the new rule.”

Should there be a penalty in overtime against one team, it changes to a 4-on-3, and two penalties would make it a 5-on-3.

An interesting twist to the new setup is that pulling your goalie, rarely a good idea in overtime anyway, isn’t a smart move. Every team gets a point in the standings if the game goes to overtime. But if you pull your goalie and the other team scores, you forfeit that point.

The Hurricanes are fortunate that they played four overtime games during the exhibition season. The NHL designated three exhibition games for each team for there to be an overtime regardless of the score at the end of regulation in order to get teams acclimated to the change. The overtime in the Caps game was the only one that actually was needed to determine the winner.

Being strong with the puck and controlling possession are going to be crucial, and the penalties for not doing so might be severe. In a 3-on-3, you absolutely can’t make a line change if you don’t have a puck because by the time you finish it, it might be in the back of your net.

“You have to make good changes, and the only way to be secure with your changes is to change on offense,” Peters said. “If you’re under siege, and you’re pushed away from the blue line, you don’t have anything, you might as well use the goaltender and come out of the offensive zone and regroup. Just because you’re in the zone, if you’re under pressure and you don’t have a play, you might as well bring it back out.”

That’s the fine line of this new scheme. Yes, you want to be aggressive when you have a good scoring chance. But the down side of mistakes also will make teams a bit cautious.

The American Hockey League coaches experienced 3-on-3 overtimes last season, and Peters has taken advantage of that to get plenty of advice.

“They feel your counterattacking in transition is important,” Peters said. “You need the save, because if you get that save, you’re going the other way. Guys have to finish, so the theory is do you go with guys who are more defensive minded or offensive minded? I think you have to have offensive-minded guys out there that when they get their chances, they are going to end it.”

It will create a lot of nerves for coaches on the bench, but it will be a treat for fans.

This article, 3-on-3 overtimes in NHL will be entertaining, first appeared on Raleigh & Company.

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