SOUTH BEND, Ind. – The new three-on-three overtime promises to be fun for any neutral watching games. Players will go back and forth creating odd-man rushes, leading to thrilling and exhilarating moments.
Well, except for goalies.
“It’s not a lot of fun for goalies. It seems like once the first big chance happens, then it just opens wide, it’s wide open,” Scott Darling said. “Then it’s just chance for chance for chance until somebody scores.”
During his time last year with the Rockford IceHogs, Darling got a taste of what three-on-three is like for goalies. Last season, the AHL’s OT format had four players on each side before going to three-on-three following the first whistle after three minutes of play.
In an effort to reduce shootouts, the NHL will have three players per side in OT. The Hawks have played 10 minutes with the new OT rules at the end of every scrimmage, giving goalies a sample of what they can expect this season.
“You’ll definitely have to play it a certain way so we’re not getting too many chances against, but also you want to be able to create,” Corey Crawford said. “With our skill and our speed, we definitely could create a lot of chances. Right now it’s just kind of a feel-out phase right now for us.”
Coach Joel Quenneville is still working out the strategy but seems to have figured out the keys to the format.
“Having the puck, goalie’s involvement, (line) changes,” Quenneville said. “I think that’s probably the one thing that was noticeable.”
Darling knows what happens when things break down. It’s not pleasant for the guys between the pipes.
“Yeah, once it breaks open, you’ve just got to make a big save and then hope it goes down the other way and hope we do (score),” Darling said. “I mean, I’ve seen some games in the (AHL) where the goalies just went save for save for save for save for save, and it can get pretty exciting.”
That’s what the defensive-minded defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson predicts as well.
“It’s going to be an interesting situation,” Hjalmarsson said. “I think it’s something the fans will appreciate because it gets open and there’s a lot of chances. I don’t think there’s going to be as many shootouts this year when we play three-on-three.”
Yeah, but will Hjalmarsson appreciate it?
“It’s fun for the crowd,” Hjalmarsson said. “It’s an entertainment business and I think it adds some value to the game and I guess the league is probably going to evaluate it after the season and see if it was something they’re going to keep or not but I think it’s worth a try for sure.”