Bryan Altman, CBS Local Sports
Gary Bettman and the rest of the NHL brass can feel free to hang a "Mission Accomplished" banner outside of the NHL offices in New York for the two biggest changes they made to the NHL game this offseason.
First, the new 3-on-3 overtime format, which has received rave reviews thus far and was instituted after players, coaches, fans and pundits alike grew tired of the shootouts that they pined for after initially growing tired of ties in NHL games prior to that.
Still, you can't blame them for reversing course. In the 2014-15 season, there were 170 shootouts and each team participated in an average of 11 shootouts last year. Over the course of an 82-game season, that averages out to over 13 percent of a team's games that were decided by a shootout, which was derided by many as a "glorified skills competition."
Now that the format has been switched to 3-on-3, the thought is that the amount of games that won't be determined in the five minute overtime period will drastically decrease, mainly due to the increased scoring chances that will come with more open ice for the NHL's star players to work with.
The verdict on whether the number of shootouts has decreased won't come until later in the season, but the 3-on-3 overtime format still checks off all of the right boxes. There's more action, more room for stars to shine, more strategy, and ultimately, there will be fewer shootouts.
After the Philadelphia Flyers and the Tampa Bay Lightning got the 3-on-3 overtime format underway last week in their first game of the new season, there was effusive praise of the new format from all corners of the internet. Well, maybe the praise wasn't entirely universal. Leave it to the NHL's goalies to rain on the NHL's parade.
Lightning goalie Ben Bishop said after the first 3-on-3 overtime game, "I don’t think it’s fair. One breakaway, then another breakaway. I think the shootout, it’s fair both ways. This is going to be a little bit more of a gong show.”
Bishop isn't just one rotten apple spoiling the bunch. Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo seems to agree with Bishop based on this tweet.
New Jersey Devils goalie Cory Schneider also offered his thoughts, saying he thinks the new format will be "a nightmare," adding that the new rules will also add to goalies' goals against average at the end of the season.
So long story short, 3-on-3 overtimes have the potential to wear on goalies but will be sure to entertain the masses.
The other policy the league put into place, one that undoubtedly will be highly scrutinized as we make our way throughout the season, is the addition of the coach's challenge to the NHL.
The new system allows coaches to challenge missed offsides calls that lead to a goal and goaltender interference calls on goals. It's important to add that coaches can only use these challenges if they have a timeout remaining, which they lose if they lose the challenge. If they get the call right, they keep their timeout and can challenge again.
The offsides calls won't cause too many headaches considering they should be pretty black and white more often than not. Goalie interference reviews, however, will be the talk of the league on multiple occasions as we saw this week during the Washington Capitals and San Jose Sharks game.
In the second period of a game the Sharks lead 3-0, a goal scored by Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov was waved off after a coach's challenge from Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer. The "contact" on goalie Martin Jones was pretty innocuous looking and some will argue that the officials blew the call on the play, but they're missing the point.
I'll harken back to an argument I made regarding NFL's flawed review system, and that's the fact that in real time, officials potentially have the worst angle and are at their least qualified to make the correct call.
Allowing them, coaches, and the men upstairs who tell coaches whether to challenge these plays or not get a second look and a second chance at getting it right is a huge win for the league.
100 times out of 100, I'd rather the official get the opportunity to review his decision in slow motion, from multiple angles, while not skating towards a play trying to get a decent look at it, than force him to live with a call made in the midst of a pressure-packed NHL game.
That's why the NHL deserves props for being the first league to institute a review system for a judgment call. It makes judgments easier less than it actually calls them the into question. There will be controversy, and there will be complaints, but it's important to remember that there were plenty of those over calls that couldn't be reviewed.
So hang that banner high commissioner Bettman, because despite the boos you'll receive and the issues that might arise, these are two calls that you got right.
Bryan Altman is, for some reason, an unabashed fan of the Rangers, Jets and Mets. If he absolutely had to pick a basketball team it would be the Knicks, but he’d gladly trade them for just one championship for either of his other three teams.
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