NHL: The Verdict on 3 vs. 3 Overtime so far




The newest page in the NHL rule-book from this summer was put in to action this season in regards to the newest overtime rules. Instead of the old 4 vs. 4 for 5 minutes overtime we have gotten used to seeing over the past few seasons, we have now been seeing the 3 vs. 3 system. It’s exactly the same as it’s been for us, just one less player on each side now which is allowing for way more open ice and way more scoring opportunities. That was the whole point of this new system, to reduce the amount of shootouts we would see and put the game deciding goals back into the hands of team play as opposed to individual talent. We still will see shootouts at the end of overtime if no one scores, just hopefully less of them. Shootouts have been highly criticized as a gimmick and an unrealistic determination of skill. Has the NHL fixed that problem with the new 3 on 3 overtime system, or have they concocted another gimmick?

Every point counts in the NHL. We’ve seen teams miss or make the playoffs by the difference of one point multiple times, and that’s exactly why the NHL needed to address the overtime situation this offseason. You can’t take any point for granted when you’re a team in the hunt. It was tough watching teams miss out on the playoffs due to the fact that they were losing shootouts. You play 60 tough minutes of hockey, an additional 5 for overtime, and then it’s left to be decided by the way we ended our pee-wee practices back in the day. While it is important to have players with great stick handling skills and goalies who can stop anything, it’s not a fair assessment of the game, but is the 3 on 3 any better?

With the small sample size of this new overtime system that we’ve seen so far, it has certainly done its job. As of October 28th, here are the numbers on how well the new system has been working.

Already a drastic difference in the amount of games being decided in overtime as opposed to heading to the individual skill competition shootout. The big reason is obviously the amount of open ice for the players to work with. Shots and scoring opportunities have nearly doubled already in the new system as opposed to the old.

So is this new system any more fair on the goaltenders? Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop doesn’t seem to think so according to this post in the Tampa Bay Times.

“Personally, I don’t think it’s fair,” said Ben Bishop, the winning goalie of the new format. “One breakaway, then another breakaway. I think the shootout, it’s fair both ways. This is going to be a little bit more of a gong show.”

Bishop does have a fair point, and if you watched any of the 3 on 3 overtime so far this season, you would be inclined to agree with him. It’s absolute chaos out there when that puck drops for those 5 minutes. End to end opportunities and barely a chance to catch your breath. Would goalies have a better chance in the shootout, or does having defensemen and  forwards supporting you feel more natural for goaltenders? With the amount of games ending in overtime already this season, it’s starting to look like some of them may want the one on one back.

Speaking of wanting the old system back, Ben Bishop isn’t the only player to speak out about the new overtime system. Ottawa Senators captain Erik Karlsson is the latest player to voice his opinion here at Sportsnet.ca.

“It feels more like a bag skate for players like me,” Erik Karlsson told reporters Thursday, the morning after he skated a game-high 30:28 in a contest that, alas, needed to be solved by a shootout. “It hasn’t ended any games for us yet.

“It’s not really hockey. It’s whoever holds on to the puck longest and whoever cheats the most. Small stuff like that. Kinda boring,” the Ottawa Senators defenceman went on.



“I don’t really know what extra purpose it serves other than getting players extra tired. I don’t see why we would keep it. ”

Karlsson called for a return to the “old-fashioned way,” arguing that tied games should simply end in ties.


Coming from a speedy two-way defenseman like Karlsson, this has to mean something. The only thing I disagree with what Karlsson said was that “all tied games should simply end in ties.” Fans like myself would more than likely tend to agree that games ending in ties would be one of the worst things to happen to hockey. Also calling the new system boring is pretty bizarre as well, it’s been anything but boring for the fans so far. This really could be the big underlying issue here if the players hate it, but the fans can’t get enough of it, what do you do next? The fans purchase the jerseys, tickets, and keep these teams afloat, but the players are the ones putting their bodies and health on the line to entertain us on a nightly basis. So which is more important? Was this a move by the NHL to make the game more exciting for the fans?

Now this isn’t saying that every player hates it already, in fact Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks had some positive words about the new overtime calling it “fun hockey”. So it seems as a player it is definitely going to take some adjusting to and it appears it will be one of those love or hate relationships with no in-between. As a fan it’s been entertaining to watch and has brought an element of excitement to the game that makes regular season overtime feel like playoff hockey.

So what do you guys think? Is the new overtime system good for the league, or is it a new gimmick by the NHL to keep the fans on the edge of their seats. With a lot of season left to be played, there is no doubt that the verdict on whether or not this was the right move by the NHL will become clearer and clearer.

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