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NHL Changing Overtime Rules? – SportsUntapped.com
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Added August 19th, 2010 by Chalk

NHL Changing Overtime Rules?
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The NHL wants fewer regular season games to be decided by shootout, so this week the league is testing ideas for changing overtime at its Research, Development and Orientation Camp. The league is looking at changing overtime from its current four-on-four format to two-on-two or three-on-three, or keeping four-on-four but making teams make longer line changes.  Other ideas on the table include adding a second five-minute overtime period and getting rid of the shootout.

Last season, a record number of NHL games were decided by shootout — 184, or nearly 15% of all regular season games.  That’s way more than the league foresaw when it instituted the shootout in the 2005-2006 season, not to mention a sizeable increase from the 159 shootouts the previous season.  The NHL thought that teams would try harder to score in the five-minute overtime, and that by changing from five-on-five to four-on-four in overtime, it would be easier to score goals.  But more and more teams seem to be playing to get to the shootout.  Former NHL coach Ken Hitchcock says its because teams have “more strategy and more control” in the shootout.

Most NHL executives felt that going to two-on-two, something that never happens in hockey, was “gimmicky” and “extreme.” They reacted more favorably to three-on-three action, which is awfully rare in hockey but not unprecedented.  Keeping four-on-four but having teams switch sides and make longer line changes also seemed like a good option.  Statistics say over the past 10 seasons, 37% of regulation goals have come in the second period when teams have to make longer line changes, compared with 30% in the first period and 33% in the third period when they don’t have to.

Former NHL coach Dave King says the long line change in overtime is the change the NHL is most likely to make and thinks it’s “got good potential to open up the overtime.”  More drastic changes would probably get tested more in preseason games or at the minor league level.

I’d say the only way to really make teams play to win in overtime is to take away the shootout but keep the automatic one point for an overtime loss.  If teams have nothing to lose by playing offensively, and can only get the extra point for the win, they’ll play to score with or without fewer skaters or longer line changes. On the other hand, bringing back ties may feel like a step backward for the NHL, and it may take a lot more shootouts for the NHL to want to take that step.

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