NHL Goalies Starting To Warm Up To 3-on-3 Overtime
When it was first announced that the NHL would be switching to a five minute, three-on-three format of overtime for the 2015-2016 season and beyond, it was initially met by some criticism by the players. While it was widely accepted that it would be exciting for the fans, shooters and goaltenders were both quite apprehensive.
New Jersey’s Cory Schneider campaigned for a separate category of statistics for three-on-three play, stating that it would not be fair if overtime goals continue to count against his regular save percentage and goals-against-average.
“I suggested a side category where a goalie’s 3-on-3 stats could be hidden away and not put into your main stats, because it’s going to be tough. There’s so much talent in the NHL and sometimes 5-on-5 opens up, but 3-on-3 is going to open up and fans are really going to love it. It’s going to be up and down the ice. It’s going to be hard for us goalies, so we’re going to have to be really sharp and ready to go.”
Earlier this week, Winnipeg Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien was ultra-critical of three-on-three overtime after his team dropped a 4-3 decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“It’s terrible. It’s a terrible part of hockey. It’s not hockey. It ain’t hockey. It’s ‘Just let the kids play.’ It’s stupid. Just keep it four-on-four, five-on-five. Let’s just play hockey.”
While NHL fans have been raving about the excitement level of the new overtime style, AHL players and fans got to witness it a year early. Last season the league experimented with three-on-three, and our interview with Mike McKenna shed some light on what was to be expected – from a goaltender’s perspective.
“Three-on-three was a chess game the first 30 to 45 seconds but once the play got going one chance led to another and it was usually in the form of rushes. Breakaways and 2-on-0s are commonplace.”
Now that the NHL is a full month into the new season, it seems as if goaltenders are starting to get used to it. After a rough feeling-out period, we have now seen back-to-back days with incredible desperation saves during overtime.
First, on Tuesday night it was Buffalo’s Chad Johnson who made a throwback Dominik Hasek-style diving blocker save to rob Scott Laughton of the Philadelphia Flyers of a sure goal.
Then, on Wednesday night, Ottawa’s Craig Anderson snatched one away from Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames at the side of the net.
Many people predicted that goalies would be forced to make more desperation saves in the new overtime, but now we’re really starting to see it. Is this the new norm? Are goaltenders around the league finally getting used to the new format, and are having some fun with it? From a purely entertainment-level standpoint, we sure hope so.