More OT, less shootout
Last week's GM's meetings in Toronto featured a discussion on changing overtime to try to conclude more games prior to the shootout. Lots of hockey people think the shootout has too much of a bearing on playoff races.
Detroit GM Ken Holland has brought forth a concept where overtime would be extended to include a segment of 3-on-3 play. Currently teams play 4-on-4 for five minutes and then go to the shootout if no one scores.
The NHL's hockey operations department is looking at a number of issues and concepts but the basic idea is to play three or four minutes of 4-on-4 and then go to 3-on-3 for the same amount of time.
Issues being discussed are whether to flood the ice, the effect on top end players and what to do if a team is penalized during 3-on-3.
Don't expect a flood as no one wants to extend the length of games. The NHLPA might have an issue with the extra workload on its top players but this idea has traction and the NHL might decide to go forward with a change to overtime with or without the union's blessing.
If a team is penalized during 3-on-3 a penalty shot could be awarded or a player could be added to create a 4-on-3 power play. Also, points scored during overtime would continue to count in the statistics regardless of when they occurred, 4-on-4 or 3-on-3.
The NHL is expected to have something for the GMs to look at during their winter meetings in March.
OVIE GREAT BUT NOT GREATEST
Alex Ovechkin scored a pair on Sunday night (including the game-winner) to tie St. Louis Blues forward Alex Steen for the league lead in goals at 17.
Ovechkin is hot scoring four goals in the Caps last three games, which were all wins.
Ovechkin has seven goals and two assists in his last seven games and now has 80 career multi-goal games (620 GP), including four this season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only player in the last 20 NHL seasons to reach 80 multi-goal games quicker than Ovechkin was Pavel Bure, who did so in 586 games.
The Capitals have earned at least one point in eight of their last nine games (7-1-1) to climb into first place in the Metropolitan Division.
Ovechkin now has 17 goals and seven assists to sit just two back of Steen and the league lead. The talented Russian, however, is a minus-seven and is the only player in the top-ten scorers who isn't even or better. There's been lots of talk about Ovechkin rounding out his game but the reality is he still cheats offensively and it costs his team.
V or TORTS
The Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers traded coaches this off-season and while the early returns favoured John Tortorella and his move West, there is now an argument being made by Alain Vigneault in Manhattan.
The Canucks are now realizing how difficult life is outside of the cozy Northwest Division, which they owned under Vigneault. The Canucks and their 11-8-3 mark find themselves fifth in the much tougher Pacific and would not be a playoff team if the season were to end today.
Vigneault's Rangers started out poorly due to a very-heavy road schedule and some injuries, but have bounced back nicely, winning seven of their last 10 to climb into third spot in the Metro Division with a 10-10-0 mark.
There's lots of hockey to be played and comparing the work of coaches with different teams in different divisions is awkward at best, but at this stage it appears the coaching changes in Vancouver and New York have had little effect on the performance of the teams.
Players win games. Coaches can lose them, but they can't win them.