Prior to the start of the 2015 National Hockey League preseason, the league selected 45 games that regardless of the score at the end of regulation, would play a five-minute three-on-three overtime in preparation for the new overtime format that will take place in 2015-16. 14 other games featured three-on-three overtime as a result of tied scores after regulation.
Forty-two of the 59 games saw goals scored in the overtime session, good enough for a 71.2% success rate. Of the 306 games that went to overtime last season where a five-minute four-on-four session was played, 136 ended with an overtime goal, a 44.4% success rate.
Based off the early, but brief, sample size, it’s safe to say that three-on-three overtime has been an overall success as the league looks to minimize the amount of games that are decided in the shootout.
“Watching some of the games already, they end quickly,” said Devils’ forward Adam Henrique. “There’s a lot of room on the ice. It’s going to be the little mistakes that cost you.”
Bruins fans saw how quickly three-on-three can be thanks to a ton of open space on the ice as back on September 22, David Pastrnak’s goal 12 seconds into the extra frame ended things in their preseason win over the Washington Capitals.
With speed and skill seemingly becoming the key factor in the new overtime format, the extra frame certainly should be exciting to watch.
“I think it’s great. It gives us a chance to finish with the players on the ice. It’s going to be entertaining in a lot of ways,” said Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. “It’s a new element to the game that we’re going to have to get used to, but it’s going to be fun.”
Shootouts were a fan favorite at first, but the gimmick quickly became stale. Management, coaches and players alike often expressed their displeasure in the shootout throughout the years ultimately leading to the introduction of the new overtime format.
Limiting mistakes seems to be the common theme inside NHL locker rooms. From making one bad decision to avoiding a bad bounce, nearly perfect hockey will be needed in three-on-three overtime.
“Being smart will be key. One bad bounce and it’s going to be 3-on-0 the other way,” said Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. “I really like the decision because it’s dangerous both ways. Even if you don’t score one way, you have a breakaway the other way” said Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko who surely will benefit from three-on-three overtime. “It’s really good stuff and I think it’s interesting. It’s more opportunities, and there’s more opportunities to make mistakes. You need to think really hard before you try to make a play.”
As we sit just about 24 hours from the start of the regular season, the players seem to have enjoyed what they’ve seen thus far from three-on-three. More games ending prior to the shootout is what the league is hoping for. So far they’ve gotten their wish.