BOSTON — In anticipation of the rollout of the NHL’s new overtime format, each of the league’s 30 clubs will close out a few of their preseason games with a five-minute session of 3-on-3 hockey.
Claude Julien didn’t mind that his team’s first taste of the new system was a brief one.
“I was OK with 12 seconds,” the Boston Bruins coach joked Tuesday after David Pastrnak scored just a dozen seconds into overtime to give the Bruins a 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals at TD Garden.
As a way of reducing the number of games that end in shootouts, the NHL Board of Governors this summer voted to cut the number of skaters on the ice during overtime from eight to six. More open ice theoretically would lead to more scoring chances, which would in turn lead to more goals. Only after five minutes of scoreless 3-on-3 would a shootout be required.
Julien believes the new format will yield the desired results.
“I said that there’s a good chance that those are going to end quickly, because it doesn’t take much,” the coach said. “One 2-on-1, one bad pass behind the guy and he’s skating in the wrong direction. They pick it up and go the other way. It’s not going to take much. One bad line change — I mentioned that the other day. But what I liked was the way they scored that goal. … We won the faceoff. We took control of the puck. It took just a couple of passes, and the puck was in the net. So, I was happy with that.”
Any innovation that results in less frequent shootouts likely would be welcomed by the Bruins, who went just 4-10 last season in games decided by the skill competition. But since 3-on-3 play is an extreme rarity during regulation, employing it in overtime carries with it its own set of challenges.
“I think more than anything, we’re curious to see the different strategies that take place,” said Torey Krug, who assisted on Pastrnak’s game-winner. “You talk about guys that play in the AHL (which implemented 3-on-3 into its overtime format last season), what they’ve seen over the course of the past year. Whether it’s leaving a guy a little bit higher — almost like cherry-picking a little bit — or playing just 3-on-2 in zone and leaving that guy out there. There’s just different strategies. We’ll see how aggressive teams get with it, and I hope that we’re on the winning side of a lot of those.”
Some additional notes from Tuesday’s exhibition:
— Chris Kelly also shared his thoughts on the overtime changes — the latest offensive-minded tweaks from a league that’s “trying everything to get more goals.”
Kelly’s style of play doesn’t exactly translate into the wide-open nature of 3-on-3, but he said he’s all for the switch.
“I’m in favor of less shootouts,” the veteran forward said. “Personally, I was in favor of whatever the fans would prefer. Obviously, we’re in the entertainment business to a certain extent, and you want to keep your fans happy. And I think if 3-on-3 is more exciting — and I think it was pretty exciting (Tuesday night) — then I’m sure the fans will be happy.
“And also, hockey is such a team sport. With a shootout, it turns into an individual thing to a certain extent. But I like the 3-on-3 so far.”
— David Krejci assisted on both Bruins goals — a positive start for a player who was limited to just 47 games last season as he battled a rash of injuries.
“I think David’s goals for this preseason are to get his legs moving and see how he feels out there,” Krug said. “Obviously, he’s one of the better playmakers in the league, so his hands will come. And I know that you saw it in the overtime, that’s vintage Krejci right there.”
— After Jonas Gustavsson and Jeremy Smith made their first auditions for the Bruins’ backup goalie job Sunday in Providence, the other two contestants had their shot Tuesday.
Malcolm Subban started the game in net and saved all 17 shots he faced. Zane McIntyre relieved him, recorded 10 saves and allowed one goal — the only one allowed by a Bruins goalie so far this preseason.
It was McIntyre’s first game at the Garden since his North Dakota squad lost to Boston University in the national semifinals this past spring.
“It was kind of crazy,” he said. “Those are some not-so-great memories the last time we were here, but now, next chapter of my life. It’s the next step, and I’m looking forward to it.”
— Look for Loui Eriksson to start on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand when the Bruins host the New York Rangers on Thursday night.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images