Exploring whether the NHL should change the format of overtime

The NHL offseason can be a long and uneventful wait for fans, especially after the draft and free agency. That being said, we’re going to take a look at how to bolster more interest in the game with rule changes.

Overtime, and more importantly the shootout, have been hot topics of conversation in recent memory. The move to 3v3 overtime was a major stepping stone for the league and gave players a great stage to showcase their speed and talent with more space on the ice. It was also a great new way to bet on hockey at some of the best NHL betting sites.

Although, some fans, players and management seem to all still have a bone to pick with the shootout.

This week we’re going to look at some alternate solutions for when the horn sounds after 3v3.

The NHL’s current overtime format

After regulation in the regular season teams play a five minute overtime period at 3v3. The current format was put in place to speed up overtime results, and minimize games being decided by shootouts.

The shootout was implemented after the 2005–06 NHL lockout to bring an end to the tie. Shootouts were dominating decisions in games, while 5v5 overtime had become somewhat boring and didn’t have great opportunities for teams to score. That led the league to implement the five minute 3v3 overtime period since 2015–16.

3v3 overtime has been a smash hit for fans and teams alike. Top-end talent is on the ice with more space, creating exciting back and forth series of play with minimal whistles. Scoring chance after scoring chance. What more could you ask for? Well, in one word: more.

Extending 3v3

In place of a shootout, proposing additional time at 3v3 could be taken into consideration. Although, issues do arise when you account for who plays the majority of overtime periods. It’s not ideal from a coaching perspective to have your best players on the ice for a gruelling back and forth period that would wind up longer than five minutes.

This is emphasized by the difficulty teams have changing lines on the fly at 3v3 currently. In many cases, two to three whistles per overtime period creates long shifts for players and changing on the fly can really put your team in jeopardy, even with possession in the offensive zone.

To counteract that, an additional five minute period of 3v3 could be played to try and mitigate injuries and fatigue associated with compounding overtime play over the course of a regular season. Providing a short intermission to scrape the ice surface and give teams a rest would allow for more sustained competition and minimize some of the long shifts that would become longer if the period length was doubled.

3v3, 2v2 and 1v1

This format offers a whole new approach to overtime in hockey. 3 minutes at 3v3, 2 minutes at 2v2, and then 1 minute at 1v1.

It’s unorthodox to say the least but could offer more of the excitement we see with 3v3 play. Shortening the period of 3v3 play would make two additional shorter periods manageable for fans to watch and keep games at a reasonable length.

The most captivating part of the shootout that fans do love, is the high stakes. This format would maintain that effect and raise the stakes of each progressing period.

2v2 would bring different strategies with individual teams, while 1v1 would boast a similar excitement to the shootout, relying heavily on an individual’s talent, while also allowing defending to take a prominent role in the deciding period.

If you think chances go back and forth at 3v3, 2v2 is the Wild West and 1v1 could be straight up armageddon.

1v1 periods only elapsing one minute allows one to two shifts the entire period and easily has the potential to be decided without any stoppages in play.

It’s a wild and crazy idea, but so was 3v3 back in 2015. The league could easily trial something like this during preseason games to at least validate it too.

Still no decision?

Goalie vs goalie? That’s too out there.

If the game still isn’t decided after the three shortened periods, a tie would be handed out.

Is a single point for each team really that bad?

The total overtime play would be six minutes while adding even more excitement to the game.

If it’s time for the shootout to go there’s options to extend 3v3 play or change the format all together. The vast majority of NHL GMs are in favour of a change. But, time will tell if the league decides to pilot a new format in the next few seasons.

Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire

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