The hockey shootout has had some great moments. Who can forget stay-at-home defenseman Marek Malik’s through the legs goal in the 15th round against Ollie Kolzig? But the skills competition has outstayed its welcome, it seems. Players, coaches and GMs complained that shootouts took too long, placed too much emphasis on individual skill and had no correlation to regulation and overtime — but somehow gave the winning team two points. In an effort to reduce shootouts, the NHL is moving to a 3-on-3 overtime as opposed to a 4-on-4 one.
The 3-on-3 Solution
The minor league affiliates in the AHL tested out 3-on-3 OT last season. The results: Seventy-five percent of games in 2014-2015 finished in overtime, compared to 35 percent in the previous season. The NHL preseason ended during the first weekend in October and according to Yahoo Sports, they got the same numbers as the AHL — 75 percent of games that went to overtime finished with an overtime winner, with the average goal coming 2 minutes and 49 seconds into the extra frame.
Emphasis on Speed
Without a doubt, 3-on-3 OT will showcase the amazing speed of NHLers. PowerScout Hockey tracked data on NHL players and found that the fastest player, Carl Hagelin, clocked in at a jaw-dropping 37.1 km/h (23.0 mph). There are few plays in sports more beautiful than seeing a forward burst around a defenseman at top speed or a defenseman hustling back to make a defensive stop.
Teams with speedy weapons include:
Carl Hagelin and Andrew Cogliano, Anaheim Ducks. Already overwrought with speed, the Ducks added Hagelin into the mix over summer. Hags and his fastest skater competitor, Andrew Cogliano, have the ability to spring by any defender. Throw a skilled two-way defenseman like Sami Vatanen or Cam Fowler, and these guys might run circles around you.
Taylor Hall and Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers. There hasn’t been much hype surrounding a rookie since Sidney Crosby and the first 2015 overall pick, McDavid, certainly deserves the attention. Taylor Hall was also a first overall pick for the Oilers and struggled much of last year, registering just 38 points in 50 games — but he’s poised to make a turnaround with a revamped roster. Hall has already shown off his speed and sticking him with McDavid in OT will spell serious trouble for opponents.
Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Lightning. Arguably one of the biggest surprises in the NHL the last couple of years has been Tyler Johnson. The Spokane, Washington, native racked up 23 points in 26 games in the Stanley Cup playoffs while using his speed to burn through opposition. The heavy shot Stamkos unleashes often overshadows his blinding speed.
Showcase Team Creativity
While speed will definitely be a factor in earning an extra point in the extra frame, with so much open ice, having chemistry with your linemates is imperative. Look out for these top overtime trios:
Phil Kessel, Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins. Crosby is, in the eyes of many, the best player in the world and the Pens added Phil Kessel over the summer to give him one of the pure goal scorers in the league. A healthy Kris Letang provides these two with a solid defender who can move the puck.
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks. Kane’s hands and wrist shot are the best in the game, and he and Toews have built a rapport over the years that will make them dangerous in overtime. Duncan Keith is a fast defenseman who can contribute to the play and backcheck if the puck bounces the other way.
Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Sami Vatanen, Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks are on here again, which spells trouble for anyone heading into OT with them. It’s hard not to include Perry and Getzlaf — they’ve been wreaking havoc together in Southern California for almost a decade.