How might 3-on-3 overtime affect the Blackhawks?
With the NHL set to head to an overtime format featuring 3-on-3 play, how might this affect the Chicago Blackhawks moving forward?
With much of the news surrounding the Chicago Blackhawks surrounding who and who may not be with the team by the end of the week, it's easy to forget that there are other things going on in the hockey world. With the NHL Awards set to take place on Wednesday, and the NHL Draft just a couple of days away, there's no shortage of news trickling out these days.
One of the larger stories stemming from the impending Board of Governors meeting on Wednesday is the fact that the league could be set to head to an overtime format that will feature three skaters per side in the extra frame, with the shootout still in place to follow if necessary.
The original proposal, and one widely preferred by owners and management, was that of the model that has been adopted in the American Hockey League. In the AHL, the first overtime features four minutes of 4-on-4 hockey, followed by an additional three minutes of 3-on-3. However, the players were not interested in the extra ice time that might require, however small.
As such, this is the model that they'll likely roll with, where three skaters aside will take the ice for the five minute overtime before the shootout takes place. The entire goal here is to avoid the shootout and minimize its impact on the standings at the end of the season. Not only that, it tends to serve as a buzzkill for a game that may have been otherwise exhilarating for 65 minutes of game action.
Twenty-three teams saw games decided by shootout at least 10 times last season. The Florida Panthers led the way, with 18 games headed to the ping-pong tilt, with four different teams coming in second with 14 shootout appearances. The Blackhawks saw action in an even dozen shootouts, and they actually benefited quite a bit from that scenario.
Of their 12 shootout matchups, the Blackhawks won nine. The only team that won more games in the SO were the Colorado Avalanche. The only team that loss less were the Columbus Blue Jackets, who dropped just a pair of games when headed to the post-overtime nonsense.
The AHL saw the Milwaukee Admirals head to a shootout just nine times, which led the league. Two teams, the Chicago Wolves and Binghamton Senators, only went to the shootout twice. On average, AHL teams went to a shootout just 4.36 times. By comparison, NHL teams went to the shootout 11.33 times, on average. The league as a whole saw 170 games total decided by the shootout. While the team isn't directly adopting the AHL model, going to three-on-three appears to be in a step in the right direction toward cutting out those extra seven shootouts per team.
Now how does that affect the Blackhawks? Given that the Hawks were closer to the middle of the pack in terms of their raw number of shootout appearances, not tremendously. But as frustrating as they may be as a format to decide games, they were widely successful at them with those nine wins. Even so, transitioning to a situation with wide open ice should benefit a team like the Blackhawks, who boast such a wide array of skill players with good speed.
In that respect, it should benefit the Hawks a great deal. This is a scenario where guys with great feet and good hands are going to thrive. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane could see a healthy amount of overtime points, along with Brandon Saad and Marian Hossa, as well as Teuvo Teravainen. With the high quality defensemen that the Hawks have on their blue line, combined with the two way ability of the likes of Toews, Saad, or Hossa, they should be able to stifle the opposition regularly enough to where they should come out of this quite successfully.
With a team as loaded as the Hawks, even after this impending cap purge, there are so many different ways they could go. Joel Quenneville could roll out three forwards, with a Toews, Hossa, Kane combination at some point. Saad could find his way in there as well. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook should see plenty of time out there as well, given their offensive upside. Teuvo may still be a bit sheltered next year, but could see time with effective defensive players around him.
Ultimately, though, we can declare this to be a change of the "gimmick" variety. While it isn't quite the spectacle that the shootout has always been, this isn't necessarily about improving the game, but getting fans excited. With all of that open ice and the Blackhawks involved, it should certainly do the job in Chicago. Who would you like to see as the Hawks' 3-on-3 combinations for next season?
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.