As I watched my hometown Philadelphia Flyers end three periods of tenacious hockey tied at 2-2 with the Tampa Bay Lightning last night, I knew overtime wasn’t going to be a good thing for them. Especially given the NHL’s new 3-on-3 for five minutes rule, followed by a shootout if necessary. Before the puck even dropped in OT, I chalked it up as a loss. Horrible, I know. But the Flyers have one of the league’s least stellar overtime records in recent memory, so it’s not like I was being defeatist about it – just honest.
I mean, I wanted them to win. I just didn’t think it was in the cards; especially against a team that has only lost one player from their Stanley Cup Finals run last year, as one of my colleagues hailing from #BoltsNation, Cass Anderson, so graciously reminded me today.
So, when the Flyers did ultimately find a way to lose the first 3v3 overtime in NHL regular season history, I sat on my couch clad in my Rod Brind’amour jersey and declared the new OT policy the “worst fucking thing ever.” Hated it. Hated seeing my team go into the NHL record books for losing. Was ready to petition the league to change the rule back. Not because it would benefit the Flyers in any way, but because I was just so damn frustrated.
But when I awoke this morning, I had a change of heart. No longer wearing my Flyers’ colors on my sleeve and completely free of some beer-fueled bias, I watched the film from last night’s overtime a few times over, simply as a hockey fan. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was fucking spectacular.
Despite lasting only 2:17 before Tampa Bay’s Jason Garrison netted the game winner on a breakaway when two Flyers got caught forechecking, the 3v3 overtime was utterly ELECTRIC. Four breakaway opportunities AND a penalty shot thrown in the mix, all in just over two minutes of play. It’s the kind of stuff hockey fans have been pining for!
Now, rather than deciding a game via shootout (which is totally arbitrary because it removes any kind of team notion from what is probably the most team-centric game out of the four major sports) the NHL’s new overtime rules allow the game’s biggest stars to go head-to-head as long as stamina provides. Three-on-three hockey almost virtually guarantees a game-winning goal. When tested in the minors, more than 75 percent of AHL games were settled before going to a shootout last season. Great news for the Flyers, seeing as they’ve only been successful in shootouts at around a 33 percent clip since the rule was adopted by the NHL in 2005-06.
It just makes sense if making the sport more exciting is the NHL’s goal. A goalie can only stand on his head so many times – as Steve Mason illustrated perfectly last night – before he gets fooled by a crafty breakaway deke. And with so much open ice, it seems pretty inevitable that we’ll see games end in this fashion more and more regularly before they even get to a shootout. There’s just too much talent on the ice for a goal not to be scored when it’s 3-on-3. It’s like watching a bunch of kids skate their heart out end-to-end playing pond hockey, and I love it.
I don’t even care that the Flyers lost; this is the best thing to happen to the NHL since they did away with the two line pass in 2005.