The addition of three-on-three overtime to decide regular season games is one of the best changes the NHL has made in … well … decades. It can be chaotic, fast-paced, insane fun, and a great opportunity to see the best and most talented players in the world really show off their skill and creativity. It has been so popular that the league even transitioned the All-Star game into a three-on-three mini-tournament.
The Anaheim Ducks’ strategy on Sunday night in their 5-4 win over the Edmonton Oilers was anything but exciting.
In the end it was kind of hilarious given the context of what was happening, but hardly exciting.
Let’s take a look at how they scored the winning goal to pick up a massive extra point in the standings.
After winning the opening faceoff the Ducks simply circled around in their own zone, ragging the puck around and passing to one another, for nearly a minute-and-a-half just playing an extended game of keep away.
- The Ducks attempted and completed 10 passes to one another in the defensive zone
- The puck never left the Ducks’ zone until 1:14 of the overtime period had passed
- The Edmonton Oilers went the entire overtime period, nearly a minute-and-a-half, and never once had one of their sticks touch the puck.
The original thought — as was outlined on the Sportsnet broadcast as this was happening — was that they were probably just killing time waiting for Edmonton’s two best players, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, to leave the ice.
McDavid and Draisatl — as well as defenseman Darnell Nurse — ended up staying on the ice the entire shift. If nothing else all of that skating around and waiting tired them out. Meanwhile, the Ducks made several changes to their trio, one at a time, while they skated around in their own zone. So even though they didn’t get McDavid and Draisaitl off the ice, they were almost certainly not the freshest legs on the ice and only a fraction of what they might be when rested.
Once the Ducks decided to charge up the ice, they won the game on their first — and only — rush, ending the game when Hampus Lindholm pounced on a loose puck in the slot and snuck one through Oilers goalie Cam Talbot.
It is all kind of amazing to watch unfold.
First, it brings back some memories of when the Philadelphia Flyers refused to attack Guy Boucher’s 1-3-1 alignment a few years back.
It was not quite to that extreme, but it was still at least somewhat reminiscent.
But what does this say about the Oilers that the Ducks were willing to just circle around in their own zone for 80 seconds, waiting for the one true threat on the other team (well, let’s be fair to Draisaitl and say two threats) to either exhaust himself or just leave the ice entirely before they actually tried to attack? Probably that there is nobody else on that team that put any fear into the Ducks, and the two players that could never even had a chance to make a play. In a lost, disappointing season full of low points, this was probably one of the worst moments for the Oilers, watching an opponent just toy with them for an entire overtime period.
Was it the most exciting 80 seconds of three-on-three overtime that we have ever seen?
Not at all.
But it worked to perfection, probably even better than the Ducks could have hoped.
For them, that is all that matters.