The NHL announced a week or two ago that the long-standing 4-on-4 overtime format would be replaced by a 3-on-3 format. The American Hockey League adopted the format last season and now the NHL has decided to follow suit. The main reason for reducing the number of players on the ice after regulation is to decrease the number of games decided by shootouts. While some players support the format, others would definitely prefer not to. In the case of the Capitals, the team has a bevy of players to put on the ice.
Captain Alex Ovechkin told reporters at the 2015 NHL Awards in Las Vegas that he’d prefer it stay 4-on-4. But it may force Ovi to play more responsibly in his own zone; something he improved greatly in 2014-15. The Capitals will need Ovechkin on the ice in overtime, there’s no denying that. But if Ovechkin can’t consistently play defensively in his own zone, the Caps could struggle. But, as mentioned above, Head Coach Barry Trotz has plenty of reliable options to put on the ice. New additions T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams, along with established members of the team such as Nicklas Backstrom and Jay Beagle, all have the ability to give the Caps the coveted two-points.
When the shootout was first implemented in the 2005-06 season, the percentage of games decided by a shootout was 11.79. This season, the number was 14.12. That means that the number of games decided by a shootout has gone up every year since. The league acknowledges that they understand many fans like the shootout, and commissioner Gary Bettman said as much; though by using “market research” to prove it. But players and coaches have voiced displeasure in unison with Bettman’s continued statements.
It’s important to see the benefits that such a change would bring. Not only would there be more open ice in which players such as Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, and Steven Stamkos could more easily use their offensive-prowess to help their teams win games, but it would be played at a much faster pace than 4-on-4 is.
Here’s a broader view of the new format in the way the AHL utilized it this season:
The AHL used 3-on-3 format this season, first changing the overtime period from five to seven minutes, playing 4-on-4 (the regular NHL overtime format) until the first whistle after the three-minute mark, then 3-on-3 from then till the end of the game. If it remains tied after that, THEN they go to a shootout.
Let’s take a look at potential lines for the Metropolitan division:
Washington capitals – the Caps had a bounce-back season under first-year Head Coach Barry Trotz, finishing second in the Metro division at the end of the season. The Caps’ outlook is promising with the recent additions:
Pittsburgh Penguins- with the acquisition of sniper Phil Kessel on July 1st, the Pens have three of the most dangerous offensive players in the game in Kessel, Crosby, and Evgeni Malkin. Their lines could look like this if they used all forwards:
New York Islanders- a familiar foe, the Isles have multiple weapons at their exposure.
New York Rangers- the reigning division champs, the Blueshirts bested the Capitals yet again in the second round, but did lose a few key players this offseason.
New Jersey Devils- the Devils have struggled to establish themselves as a successful team since their surprise run to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final.
Columbus Blue Jackets- after establishing themselves as a true playoff threat in 2013-14, the Jackets were detailed by injuries to key players. Nick Foligno and Ryan Johansen lead the way for the Jackets.
Carolina Hurricanes- after buying out former Capital Alex Semin, the Canes must continue to rebuild.
Philadelphia Flyers- after being handicapped by Chris Pronger’s monster contract for the last few seasons, the Flyers unloaded the deal to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Sam Gagner.