The NHL implemented 3-on-3 overtime as an attempt to make the game more exciting and to reduce the emphasis on the shootout. It was a simple addition and one which paid huge dividends at the start of the season, as games that went to overtime now featured a breakneck unpredictable pace, which led to breakaways and plenty of scoring chances. The plan was in full effect as shootouts were happening less regularly and becoming less relevant.
The change was great for scorers as it gave them more ice to operate, and allowed for skill to shine, but goalies got the crappy deal as increased scoring chances meant more opportunities to be left out to dry. Goaltender Tuukka Rask hasn’t been thrilled with the 3-on-3 overtime and said that he’s “had it” with the format.
“I mean, I’ve had it with these three-on-three overtimes,” Rask said after the loss, according to Darren Hartwell of NESN. “It’s just scoring chance after scoring chance. But, you just try to win the games, right? I was hoping (the Bruins) would score a quick goal like last game (10 seconds into overtime against Tampa Bay), but it didn’t happen.
“It’s usually just wide-open shots, breakaways or two-on-ones,” he added. “And there are no wide-angle shots or point shots. It’s just scoring chances.”
It’s hard to blame him.
The rule strictly benefits scoring and doesn’t do much for goaltenders other than having them sprawling across the ice in hopes the game extends long enough to go into a shootout. Rask is an elite goaltender and even still, he stands a poor chance in 3-on-3 play. There are so many scoring chances that 3-on-3 overtime is basically a crapshoot. Great for fans, but not for goaltenders like Rask.
While 3-on-3 was added to avoid shootouts and increase excitement in the game, its ability to do so is wearing off. In a piece by Kevin Allen of USA Today, he writes that since January 1st, teams have been going into shootouts more since the start of the season thanks to everyone figuring out the newest format.
“Since Jan. 1, 46% (49-of-106) of games tied after regulation have gone to a shootout. In the first three months of the season, 34% (44-of-129) of regulation ties ended in a shootout.”
Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler said teams are controlling the puck more and not making as many high-risk decisions which leads to high-risk scoring chances.
“I think teams are learning the quirks of playing 3 on 3,” said Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler. “You see more teams controlling the puck, and not taking chances unless they have a really, really high (percentage) scoring chance.”
Pierre McGuire echoed Fowler, saying players are less likely to take risks.
“Points are at a premium and thus players are playing less reckless in OT,” said former NHL coach Pierre McGuire, now an NBC analyst. “Plus the goaltending around the league has been off the charts.”
It’s natural for teams to adapt to the new format, but considering nearly 50% of the games in the last three months are going to a shootout is a bit disheartening for fans. The 3-on-3 format was an instant success because it made the game so much more exciting – shootouts, not so much. Players were naturally going to adapt to the new format, so seeing shootouts increase isn’t a surprise. The only way to add more excitement at this point is to abolish the shootout altogether in favor of continuous 3-on-3 – a change I don’t foresee coming.