A few weeks ago in the Bears' first meeting against the Hartford Wolf Pack, we got a brief look at the new 3-on-3 overtime rule change. While the teams only played 3-on-3 for a couple minutes before the Bears scored, seeing so much open ice was a bit discomforting. Scott Stuccio even commented during the broadcast that it looked odd.
Before commenting on the new overtime, I wanted to wait and see if Hershey would get into any more 3-on-3 situations to determine if my first impression was correct. Well, it's been a couple weeks and the only overtime game has been against Wilkes-Barre this past Friday night and it lasted about a minute.
However, on Monday James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail just so happened to post an article about 3-on-3 situations occurring in overtime. So I'm glad I waited because now I at least have another reference point. The articles discusses both the AHL and NHL in regards to overtime and 3-on-3 play. Likewise, my perspective floats between the two.
So first off, I'll admit that I have always been (and still am) a big fan of the tie. It has historical significance for both leagues and uniquely separates itself from the winner take all mentality of the other major American sports leagues. And just because the New Jersey Devils made the playoffs and won the Stanley Cup in 1995 by having the most ties and notably "playing to tie," a backlash started against this aspect of the game. This would essentially cause the AHL and NHL to move to a 4-on-4 overtime format and eventually the shootout in 2004-05 and 2005-06, respectively.
The purpose of these changes was to open up the ice in hopes of generating offense and if not then the shootout would be an exciting way to decide a game with a 1-on-1; player versus the goalie. Well, here we are again. Discussing how to open up the ice so that more games are decided in OT instead of the shootout. And 3-on-3 is what the NHL/AHL powers that be came up with?
Some say the most exciting play in hockey is the penalty shot. I beg to differ. The most exciting play is the 2-on-1. And that's because of the possibilities. In that brief moment a 2-on-1 contains all aspects of the game that makes hockey great. Offense, defense and goaltending. Does the player with the puck pass or shoot? If he shoots, does he shoot for a goal or a rebound? If he passes, does the defense break up the pass? If not, does the other offensive player take the shot (for goal or rebound) or attempt a pass back? And through all that, what does the goalie do?
From the little bit we've seen, because of so much open ice and so few players, the new AHL overtime format is basically just 2-on-1's back and forth. That may sound like a good idea on paper but in reality it is definitely a case of too much of a good thing. In the same way a penalty shot can be exciting, a 2-on-1 is exhilarating because it doesn't happen all the time. The scarcity of it drives demand which makes it that much more intense when it occurs.
But this is where we're at; this is what the decision makers have come up with. With the way things are going, I predict that by the 2019-2020 season the overtime format will consist solely of the two goalies on the ice just shooting the puck at each other.
The shootout was supposed to be an exciting way to decide a game. Now that's not viewed as proper so they're going to 3-on-3 overtime to try and move away from the shootout as much as possible. This speaks volumes about where both the NHL and AHL are at and how they got here since the 2005-06 lockout (which is coming up on the 10 year anniversary next season).
Instead of focusing on overtime, how about the decision makers figure out how to get the game back to the way it was coming out of the 05-06 lockout. No one can deny that the most exciting hockey (offensively speaking) of the past 20 years happened between 2005-06 and 2010-11. But 3-on-3 overtime is what they think is the most important in creating more offense in the game.