CHICAGO – It was a format meant for the fans, but it’s earning some respect from the players as well.
Playing 3-on-3 hockey in overtime was a way for the NHL not only to offer a more exciting brand of sudden death hockey for the spectators but also a way for teams to have fewer games end in a shootout.
The idea was so popular it created a change in the All-Star game. Instead of a traditional one team versus another in a 60-minute, three period game, the NHL decided to have it be a four-team divisional playoff in a 20 minute, 3-on-3 game. Essentially the Central Division All-Stars will face the Pacific Division All-Stars one contest then the best of the Atlantic and Metropolitan will do the same with the winners facing off for the championship.
On Saturday it was announced that Patrick Kane will be the captain of the central squad thanks to the vote of the NHL fans. It’s the fifth All-Star game for Blackhawks forward and it’s much deserving as he’s on pace for the finest year of his career with 23 goals and 33 assists on the season.
“I don’t know if I expected to be a captain of the All-Star team but it’s pretty cool,” said Kane of the honor after learning about it just before the team’s practice Saturday at the United Center.
But being a captain of this particular All-Star game is exciting considering the unique twist the league has brought with the 3-on-3 format.
“Everybody’s talking about how exciting the overtimes are, how exciting it is to watch three-on-three hockey,” said Kane. “You’re going to get a lot of skilled guys out there, you’ll see a lot of goals. It will be fun for the fans to watch just like it would be in overtime.
“Now it’s just on the players to play hard and make sure that we’re having fun whether it’s offensively or making sure that we try to put a good show on for the fans.”
Head coach Joel Quenneville will be one of those interested in seeing what the new All-Star format will have to offer considering the excitement it has brought to the overtime period. He’s especially enthused because of Kane’s presence in the contest considering his success so far in the 2015-2016 season.
“Very deserving, I’m happy for him. He’s been dynamic this year, the consistency every game,” said Quenneville of Kane being elected an All-Star captain. “Some of the highlights plays that they’ve made, I say they his linemates (Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin). He brings it. That consistency has gone to a whole new level this year.”
So have his stats which are on pace to crush his previous career highs in goals (30) and assists (58) which both came in the 2009-2010 season. While that quest will last until mid-April, Kane can’t wait for that chance at 3-on-3 in Nashville in late January based on what he’s seen with that format in overtime so far this season.
“You could be playing defense, the next thing you know there could be a turnover and your gone on the breakaway or two-on-one the other way,” said Kane of 3-on-3 hockey. “It’s exciting to be apart of and exciting going out there on the ice there could be a good chance to score or you can end the game.
“I think it’s been fun for a lot of us.”
Just wait till they get to Brigestone Arena later this month.