BOSTON — NHL general managers will gather for annual meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., next week and 3-on-3 overtime is one of the topics likely to appear on the agenda.
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The league got a great look at what the 3-on-3 format would look like in Thursday night’s matchup between the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning, which the Original Six club won 3-2 in a shootout.
There was exactly two minutes of 3-on-3 action in overtime Thursday and it produced some of the most exciting hockey of the season. Bruins winger David Pastrnak had two great chances to score, but he missed the net on one opportunity and was denied by a great save from Lightning goalie Ben Bishop on the other chance.
“I thought there was lots of room and if we would have kept — we went back to the 4-on-3 — but if we would have stayed like that something can happen because there?s so much room and there?s lots of skills on the ice,” Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron said. “Yeah, I?d be for it.”
Given the excitement and abundance of scoring chances that the format creates, it’s easy to see why 3-on-3 would be a better way to determine the outcome of games than a 1-on-1 skills competition such as the shootout.
“I was a little nervous out there actually,” Marchand said of the 3-on-3 situation. “There was so much room you almost don?t know what to do with it. It was fun for sure and I think maybe we?ll see that next year or whatnot. It was a good experience.
“I?d rather do the 3-on-3 than have a shootout. I don?t know if it’s in place of that or not, but I think it would allow for more goals and more opportunities.”
The shootout was created after the 2004-05 NHL lockout and ensured all games would have a winner by eliminating ties.
There have been a total of 142 shootouts this season and 14 percent of the total amount of games played have ended in one, the fourth-highest total in any single campaign. The worst part is that teams are scoring just 30 percent of their shootout attempts, and if that success rate doesn’t climb above 30.6 percent, it would be the lowest mark in league history.
It would be surprising if shootouts went away entirely in the near future, even if 3-on-3 is adopted for next season. One possible format is having five minutes of 4-on-4 overtime, then another five minutes of 3-on-3 before going to a shootout. That scenario would allow for more games to end without a shootout while also preventing games from lasting several hours because of too many overtime periods.
Bruins head coach Claude Julien is in favor of games ending in a team-oriented fashion.
“Personally, I?m more of a team-oriented coach I guess, which I always believe that this is a team sport and should be decided by a team,” Julien said Thursday morning. “I never, never have been and I?m just being honest about it. I know (the shootout is) a great show and I know that we?re here for our fans. If the fans like it that much and they keep it in then I have no issues, I?ll move along with it.
“But if you ask me my personal opinion, I?d like to see it decided in a way that it’s more than just one player against a goaltender. Whether its four-on-four or three-on-three it?s still a group. I think that?s the way games should be decided.”
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images