When the shootout was passed into law in 2005, fans were abuzz about the dazzling moves we would all be witness to in the ultimate one-on-one battle between player and goalie.
Nearly ten years later, the majority of us are just about done with the glorified in-game skills competition and are yearning for something more - more speed, more excitement, more suspense, and more real hockey. The NHL has finally taken notice and has decided to move the game into a new "era" of regular season overtime hockey, one we've all been waiting on for quite some time: 3-on-3 overtime.
If you've never wished for a team to take a penalty while playing up a man in a 4-on-3 situation just so you could get a little taste of three-aside fire-wagon-hockey, you're probably not a real fan - or just have no heart. What better way for a league that has often branded itself as "the fastest game on Earth" to heighten interest in the sport than to let go of the reins and allow the game's premier speedsters to roam free and turn on the burners?
The obvious reasoning behind the rule change is to cut down on the number of shootouts, as the added space on the ice gives the game's best more time and space to maneuver - which should ultimately lead to more overtime goals. However, in a game that has tightened up defensively over the past decade, the NHL had to find a way to open up the game and allow it to breathe once more and hopefully this can breathe some life back into games largely spent watching both sides dump-and-chase back and forth for sixty minutes straight.
15 Couture-Pavelski-Burns, San Jose Sharks
You know times have changed when a mention of the Sharks top players has no mention whatsoever of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. This isn't to say those two are no longer useful players - they'll likely see some 3-on-3 ice-time of their own - but they won't be the first choice. With speed being the number one priority in these situations, Couture, Pavelski and Burns get the nod. The two forwards are both capable of finding the back of the net, and Burns is as good an offensive defenseman as there is in the game today.
14 Stepan-Nash-McDonagh, New York Rangers
A two-way center, an elite scorer, and a top-tier defenseman would seemingly be just what the doctor ordered when it comes to 3-on-3 hockey. Nash is the clear-cut focal point of this line, but Stepan and McDonagh provide some stability and assurance in the defensive zone that Alain Vigneault probably lives off of (literally). This could be one of the better "all-around" overtime trios, but this line won't be pulling fans out of their seats, either.
13 Sedin-Sedin-Edler, Vancouver Canucks
Even if Alex Edler might "bring the line down" on paper, there was no way to leave the Sedin Twins off this list. Not only are they both still top-tier offensive talents, they could play together blindfolded and still find each other with patented tape-to-tape precision. The chemistry between the two is important as a lot of these trios are simply a team's best thrown together - the Sedins are not only the Canucks' best, they've also been playing together their entire lives.
12 Plekanec-Pacioretty-Subban, Montreal Canadiens
If simple common sense wasn't in the way, Michel Therrien might prefer to throw three defenseman on the ice and have them trap at the Habs blue line. Alas, that will (probably) never happen, so the Habs are left with what could be a sneaky good trio. Plekanec and Pacioretty have worked well together in shorthanded situations (read: without being dragged down by a third forward). We don't really need to get into why Subban is here, the man was born for 3-on-3 hockey.
11 Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Kronwall, Detroit Red Wings
Like the Sedins, the Red Wings best have been playing together for so long that they can sense each other on the ice without needing to look up and find them. Combine that with an intimidating presence at the blueline, a top-tier forward in Zetterberg and arguably the greatest set of hands to ever grace an NHL rink in Datsyuk and you have the makings of a lethal trio. One might argue that the Wings should only be allowed to throw Datsyuk on the ice all by himself - partially to see if he could actually score, but mostly to even out the playing field for the suckers who would have to go up against him with all that extra room at his disposal.
10 Giroux-Voracek-Streit, Philadelphia Flyers
Their presence on the list shouldn't surprise anyone, but how high they are ranked might. Keep in mind, though, that Claude Giroux has proven to be one of the league's elite offensive talents, that Jakub Voracek is a pure playmaker, and that Mark Streit is a good offensive defenseman - with some experience as a forward, to boot - all the makings of a top-end overtime trio that could cause fits for teams trying to defend the Flyers in the extra frame.
9 Tarasenko-Steen-Shattenkirk, St. Louis Blues
Vladimir Tarasenko has shown more than once that he can go up against three, four, and even five checkers on his own and came out on the other side unscathed and in position to bury a goal. Now add that elite offensive talent with another top-end player in Alex Steen and one of the best playmaking defenseman in the league in Kevin Shattenkirk and you have a trio to reckon with. Steen and Tarasenko are pure goalscorers, so one chance with all that open ice would likely be enough every time the Blues go to OT.
8 MacKinnon-Duchene-Barrie, Colorado Avalanche
Speed. Speed. And more speed.
Think about this trio in a video game context. When you're playing NHL15, you'll naturally send the puck over to the player with the fastest wheels - size and skill doesn't matter as much because you're constantly leaving your opponents in your dust.
Take that mentality, add the skill, and you have the Avalanche's top trio - and you still have Gabriel Landeskog on the bench ready to spell one of MacKinnon or Duchene. Not only will this line be hard to stop, they'll be able to get back on defense and still have enough in the afterburners to head back down the ice for a counter-attack. Throw in Patrick Roy's aggressive style and you've likely found yourself the most exciting 3-on-3 "package" in the league.
7 Seguin-Benn-Klingberg, Dallas Stars
The Stars have managed to stack the front-end of their forward crop with two of the best offensive players in the league in Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, and as an added bonus former 5th round pick John Klingberg came on as a surprise producer on the Stars blue-line this year. It's hard to put the Art Ross winner (and the guy who probably would have won the Art Ross had he not been injured) any lower than this, but if Klinberg continues to develop into a top-end offensive defenseman, the Stars could be an overtime nightmare for opponents.
6 Getzlaf-Perry-Vatanen, Anaheim Ducks
Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry can make a case for being the top duo in the league, but if we're talking trios we have to drop the Ducks down a touch. It's not a knock against Sami Vatanen, who has developed into a stud of a blue-liner, but he's not at the level of some of the guys ahead of him just yet. This will be a solid trio, and it's more of a testament to the trios ahead of them than a slight against these three that they are ranked this low.
5 Kopitar-Carter-Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
The Kings could make a couple of top end trios, but this line seems like the one that would work best. For one thing, all three are not only fast, but big and strong - and if they're going up against other "speedster" lines, they'll have the upper-hand in the strength department almost every time. Kopitar is a stellar playmaker, Carter can score with the best of them, and Doughty can do it all from the blue-line. What more could you want?
4 Ovechkin-Backstrom-Carlsson, Washington Capitals
The league's top goal scorer, the league's assists leader, and one of the best all-around defenseman in the league - all very fast, all very good, and as one unit, very, very scary. Ovechkin alone, with more space to roam, is going to be hard enough for opposing teams to handle - throw in two elite passers (who are both capable to score themselves) and you may as well pack your bags and go home if the score is tied at the end of regulation. Ovechkin loves to wheel up ice when there's 9 other guys on the ice - so imagine what kind of things he'll pull with only three opponents to get through.
3 Stamkos-Johnson-Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
Take the speed of the Colorado Avalanche's trio, combine the lethal scoring ability of the Blues' or Capitals' trios, and add a dash of franchise cornerstone defense. Sounds fantastic, doesn't it?
The Lightning are fearsome enough when they are playing at even strength. They make even the quickest of rearguards look foolish, and often make the fastest players on the ice look like they are skating through cement. Not only can they skate fast, they play fast, and that combination is going to be nearly unstoppable for opposing teams. Give Steven Stamkos an inch and he'll take a mile - give him half the ice...well, you know what happens next.
2 Toews-Kane-Keith, Chicago Blackhawks
If you watched even half of one of the Hawks games during the playoffs, you'll know why they are ranked so high. Jonathan Toews could put up 80 points a year if he wanted too, but he's the Hawks "two-way" force. Patrick Kane can go end-to-end in the blink of an eye, and if anyone was wondering about Duncan Keith's status among the league's top defenseman, he quieted all doubters with one of the best playoffs by a defenseman in the history of the sport.
Need more reasons? Three Cups in six years. If they know how to win the ultimate prize, they'll have no problem winning a 3-on-3 overtime.
1 Crosby-Malkin-Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
Over the past decade, it's hard to argue that there have been two better offensive players than Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin - likewise for Kris Letang in the "offensive defenseman" discussion. These three are the league's premier point-producers, and they do that against defensive game-plans devised specifically to slow them down every night. Giving Crosby and Malkin extra room on the ice is like giving Adrian Peterson or LeSean McCoy the opportunity to run against a defense with only seven defenders.
What separates these three from the rest? They can all do it on their own if they have to, but combined, they are as lethal as it gets.