The National Hockey League’s biggest change over the offseason was the reformatting of overtime rules. The NHL changed the overtime format to five minutes of sudden death, 3-on-3 play, followed by a shootout if a neither team is able to score. The new format is designed to open up passing and accelerate scoring even more that the past overtime format.

Previously, the regular season overtime format was five minutes of 4-on-4 play, followed by a shootout if teams remained tied. The idea of the 4-on-4 format was to open the passing lanes for both teams to allow for more frequent scoring chances. The absence of two players on the ice (one from each team) creates space for defensemen to give long passes to their forwards, which breaks up the gridlock in center ice. Even with only eight players on the ice, the neutral zone can get crowded, which is why the format has been changed.

Dustin Brown -  Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire
Dustin Brown – Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire

The new format will give each team a much larger chance to score an overtime goal, and avoid the shootout. In the original 4-on-4 format, teams were likely to go to the shootout because despite the extra room for passing, four players on each team still provided a good amount of traffic for puck handlers to weave through. The new format, will give each team wide-open passing lanes and facilitate more shots on goal.

Many NHL coaches and fans have expressed their disdain toward the shootout, and would prefer to have the overtime system reflect the playoff’s “no shootout” style. The overtime format could help ease the minds of hockey fans and NHL coaches because it might provide incentive for teams to score either regulation time, or the first five minutes of overtime and avoid the shootout. Because the 3-on-3 style is so open and allows for high scoring chances, teams should be able to avoid the shootout. Also, coaches will push harder to avoid overtime because the likelihood of the opposing team scoring is just as high.

The new overtime format is being previewed during 45 NHL preseason games. If two teams are tied at the end of regulation, then the new 3-on-3 overtime period will be put in place, potentially followed by a shootout. In each of the 45 games, if one team is leading at the end of regulation, the teams will still try the new overtime period. At the end, the team that led when regulation time expired will be deemed the winner. This is a good way for the NHL to show coaches, players and fans the new system, and it is a great preview into what the 2015-2016 season will hold.  

The new overtime period rules will better the excitement and urgency of sudden-death overtime; 3-on-3 overtime is the future of the National Hockey league, and it will take some getting used to, but in the long run it will better the passing and scoring in overtime.

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Jacob Fisk
Jacob watched his first hockey game at 7-years-old and he fell in love with the sport. The fast pace, the blood, and the goal scoring; he couldn’t get enough. He is very excited to be witting and sharing his opinion about the sport that he loves so much. Growing up in southern California he became a diehard Anaheim Ducks fan, but the best part about hockey is no matter what teams are playing the sport is still interesting. Jacob is currently a journalism student at Long Beach State University. Jacob works for the university’s athletics online radio as the play-by-play broadcaster for both men’s and women’s volleyball.