WILMINGTON, Mass. – There was no lack of opinion in the Bruins dressing room about potential changes to the current overtime/shootout system discussed by the NHL GMs this week in Toronto.
According to reports, the 30 general managers discussed potentially extending overtime to a 10-minute session, as well as potentially adding a 3-on-3 component to go along with the 4-on-4 session already played when two teams are tied after 60 minutes.
Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask went one step further, and suggested the GMs do away with the oft-discussed shootout that’s been in existence since the league adopted it in 2005-06. As a fan, the Bruins goaltender enjoys the exciting shootout session, but as a pad-carrying NHL goalie, he would use much less complimentary language.
“I wouldn’t mind [getting rid of the shootout.] It doesn’t have anything to do with the game you just played. It’s just so dramatic when you lose,” said Rask. “As a goalie it’s tough to accept that it’s not all your fault if you lose. I don’t know. As a viewer I’m a fan of the shootout, but when you’re in it, it’s not that cool, especially when you’re on the losing end. A five- or 10-minute overtime? I’d be OK with that. But going to 3-on-3 [in overtime]…that sounds a little crazy to me.
“They’re trying to make these new rules every year, it seems like. Whether it’s goalie pads or [smaller] nets, or whatever. I wouldn’t be surprised if we play 2-on-2," Rask said. "It’s not good for the fans if teams are playing it safe at the end of the game just to get to the shootout, so I’m all for overtime and going 4-on-4 to try and go for it.”
Bruins power forward Milan Lucic experienced the 4-on-4 into 3-on-3 overtime while playing for the Coquitlam Express of the British Columbia Hockey League in the 2004-05 season.
In that league, the teams would play two five minutes sessions with a 4-on-4 segment followed by a five minute 3-on-3 session if things hadn’t been decided.
They would scrape the ice in between extra sessions, and add an extra skater – rather than subtract – if a team was called for a penalty.
It sounds wild, and Lucic confirmed it was every bit of that.
“You feel like it’s almost fitting that it ends that way, rather in the shootout. It’s definitely something I would be in favor of,” said Lucic. “A five minute 4-on-4 and then a five minute 3-on-3 would be really exciting, and cool to watch. Hopefully they do something where we can get it done in overtime rather than a shootout.
“I remember that nobody ever came off the ice and was like ‘that’s so stupid that we lost it 3-on-3’ [when they got back to the dressing room]. Your chances were always pretty good to score. It was just a matter of who was going to score first.”
What was the 3-on-3 session like?
“It was just back-and-forth: chance after chance after chance,” said Lucic. “It becomes almost like pond hockey, run-and-gun type style. It definitely settles the score. I think maybe it’s 60/40 with the [players] that want to see an improvement in the [overtime/shootout] area.
“We’ll see what the geniuses of hockey come up with. I’m all for making a change... Even if it’s a ten-minute 4-on-4 that would make it better and more exciting. I just think it’s more fitting to have a game end that way rather than in a shootout.”
Claude Julien has seen several different incarnations of overtime and shootouts through his playing and coaching career, but was taking a wait-and-see approach with any potential rule changes. Clearly there wasn’t a consensus about which innovation the GMs were leaning toward, or even a definite determination they would be changing the current five-minute overtime/shootout scenario.
“They don’t know where they stand right now. I guess they’re still discussing it,” said Julien. “No matter what they decide you have to abide by it. There were a lot of things they were discussing like longer overtimes, and stuff like that.
“There are a lot of things that come into play if it’s going to be an extra five minutes [in overtime]. Are we going to play with the same ice? How is the ice going to look at the end of a 30-minute thing? Or are they going to just scrap it?" Julien asked. "There are a lot of things that come into play: 4-on-4 and 3-on-3. Are we getting away from our game? Even in my mind I haven’t figured out where I stand because there are a lot of things to think about. At the end of the day, we’re OK with the shootout, but we’re just not big fans of it deciding a game. I think everybody is trying to say ‘How can we do a better job of ending it within our game versus ending it in a shootout.”
While there was clearly no harmonic convergence on exactly how NHL games should be ended in the overtime session, it does seem pretty apparent that very few players, coaches or GMs are big shootout fans.