The NHL decided they wanted more games ending before the shootout this summer, and have changed the overtime rules to help end more games before the one-man-show starts. (Though they still cling to the shootout as a valid way of ending a game for reasons unknown...) Instead of the traditional 4-on-4 five minute overtime period, this season we will see a five minute overtime of 3-on-3.
The open ice should allow for more scoring opportunities in the sudden death time. With tiebreakers in the standing based on wins in regulation or overtime (ROW), gaining that extra point before the shootout can be the difference between a playoff spot and being on the outside looking in, especially in the ultra-competitive Western conference.
Luckily, the Dallas Stars have a roster that seems primed to take advantage of the open ice created by the 3-on-3 rule change. There are plenty of looks that Dallas could use, and pros and cons for each.
1. Two Forwards and One Defenseman
This is likely to be the personnel set most teams use in 3-on-3 overtime. A center for faceoffs, a winger and a blueliner. The great thing about the scoring threats that Dallas has now, there are quite a few looks they could try out. Training camp has already produced some glimpses of potential forward pairings for the modified overtime rules this season. Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza scored yesterday. Some other potential forward pairings that could be tried for overtime units are:
Jamie Benn / Jason Spezza
Jamie Benn / Tyler Seguin
Jason Spezza / Tyler Seguin
Jason Spezza / Valeri Nichuskin
Patrick Sharp / Jamie Benn
Patrick Sharp / Tyler Seguin
Ales Hemsky / Jason Spezza
I could continue, because there's plenty of other options available for the Stars for offense among the forwards. On the blueline, you would expect puck movers like John Klingberg, Alex Goligoski, and Jason Demers to get time on offensive overtime units.
Defensive ability will be just as important in the overtime units. The Stars wouldn't want to have players on the ice that aren't committed to their own end when the play goes the opposite way. This is where players like Patrick Eaves and Cody Eakin could make a push for overtime minutes -- both are capable defensively and can make plays offensively when given the chance.
2. Three Forwards
While not as likely as the first scenario above, there is a chance the Stars could try a pure offensive threat and put their three best forwards out on the ice. A trio of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza would scare plenty of opposing teams.
The tricky part with playing three forwards is what happens when the puck gets behind the trio and play turns the other direction. Benn and Seguin have good defensive ability (even if some Boston media would have you believe that Seguin is the laziest forward to ever play in the NHL) and have the skating ability to keep up with any of the fastest players in the league. Spezza is a capable two-way player in his own right. Players used in a three forward unit during overtime would need to have playing capabilities that allows them to play a dynamic, 300 foot game.
3. One Forward and Two Defensemen
This scenario is probably better suited if the Stars end up pinned in their own end for an extended period of time during the overtime period. Being able to throw out more defensive help to shore up their own end could be a real benefit for the Stars in those situations. The even better thing is the Stars could put out a puck mover like Klingberg and a bigger defensive guy like Demers together with a sniper like Seguin which would allow for transitioning out of the defensive zone and provide a threat for scoring off of the rush.
The trouble with this unit would be if the one forward on the ice gets kicked out of the faceoff circle. The defensemen had better be able to take a faceoff in this case, and that isn't exactly something that is practiced much for that position.
Which overtime unit are you most interested to see? What's your ideal trio combination?