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3-on-3 Overtime: How Would You Handle It?

Pop quiz, hotshot. You can only send out three players and there are five minutes to play. What do you do? What do you do?

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

You’ll be forgiven if you’d forgotten that the NHL is adopting 3-on-3 overtime this season. It was late June, the Oilers hadn’t played a meaning game in years months, and McDavid fever had all but consumed the City of Edmonton. It would have been very be easy for someone to forget about, or simply ignore, the NHL’s latest attempt to solve the (perceived?) problem of the shootout by addressing the symptom rather than the cause.

But it’s September now, and it’s about time that you got back into the flow of things. And when it comes to the new overtime format you’ll have the opportunity to jump in feet first tonight when the Oilers and Jets test out the new format tonight, regardless of the score after the end of the third period.

The idea behind the mandatory overtime period is to give the clubs (and maybe the referees as well) a chance to get used to a game state most commonly seen on outdoor rinks. With that as the goal I would have thought that paying a full five minutes rather than sudden death would have made more sense, but this is the NHL we’re talking about, it doesn’t have to make sense.

This is the new reality of NHL overtime though (at least until the tweak it again in a couple of years), so what kind of strategy should a team use in this new overtime format? Do you send out two forwards and a defenceman? Do you attack right away or sit back and wait for an opportunity?

As a fan I lean towards an all-out attack. Send out three of your fastest skaters, and when you get the puck just go, go, go. You’ll either win or you’ll lose, either way it shouldn’t take long (for what it’s worth I employ this same strategy when in casinos) and the entertainment value of this approach would be pretty high. But last season 306 games went to overtime, that’s an average of more than 20 per team, basically one quarter of the season. So while a strategy of pure offence might be entertaining for those in the stands, it might not be the wisest considering what’s at stake.

I honestly have no idea how coaches around the league are going to handle this. It should make for an interesting study as the year progresses though, especially as coaches try to react to results from just a few games. How would you handle it?