SHOOTOUT REDUCTION: New overtime rules aim to bring excitement to tied games, reduce games decided in shootouts ... Florida closes preseason Saturday against visiting Lightning
The Panthers had a league-high 18 games decided in a shootout last season.
New rules implemented this season will almost surely bring that number down.
If a game is tied after 60 minutes, instead of a five minute overtime consisting of 4-on-4 play, teams will play 3-on-3 overtime.
As was previously the case, the first to score wins the contest.
If preseason is any indication, a good percentage of games will be decided in the quick-paced 3-on-3 overtime with the fairly unpopular (among players, coaches and fans) shootout becoming less commonplace.
Last year, 316 NHL games went to overtime with 180 (57 percent) ending in a shootout.
Going into Friday, 22 preseason games went to overtime under the new format with only five (23 percent) making it to a shootout. A team that wins in overtime or a shootout still gets two points in the standings; the loser gets one.
"I think it's going to be great,'' Florida coach Gerard Gallant said.
"It should be very entertaining. When you win more than you lose, you'll be happy. But I think it's good for the game.''
The shootout was brought to the NHL following the lost 2004-05 lockout season as a way to bring excitement to games and get rid of ties, crowning a winner of each game every night.
In the 10 years since its inception, the shootout has mostly lost its luster with players complaining that too many games -- and valuable points in the standings -- have been decided based on a "skills competition."
Although there are exceptions, most notably's Florida's record 20-round win over Washington last year, the shootout has grown old.
With 3-on-3 play, there is plenty of room on the ice for players to make plays with one mistake handling the puck or a bad line change likely leading to a rush toward the goal.
"The players like it although I haven't talked to the goalies,'' Gallant joked. "The scary part is people are going to see the overtime and how exciting it is and want the entire game to be like that. There's going to be 2-on-1s, breakaways back-and-forth. The goalie is going to be real busy in that five minutes.''
In the new overtime, coaches are going to get creative with who they throw on the ice.
Gallant said he'll likely play two forwards with a defenseman to try and limit rushes toward his goalie, although he liked how his top forward line of Jaromir Jagr, Sasha Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau looked in Sunday's overtime in Dallas.
"Some teams are going to change it up,'' Gallant said. "We'll mix it up.''
Goalie Roberto Luongo, who has appeared in 76 shootouts (winning 35 of them) since 2005 says one mistake up the ice will quickly become a scoring chance and the goalie knows he will have to make a big save to keep his team in it.
"I think teams are still trying to figure out how they're going to approach it,'' Luongo said. "It's definitely going to be interesting because it's a much different dynamic than 4-on-4. As a group, we need to have a good plan in place to have an edge early in the year. It's going to be exciting. Even though I'm not the best shootout goalie, it was fun. You roll with the punches. They are fun to win.''
-- The Panthers play their final preseason game Saturday against visiting Tampa Bay with Gallant saying while he would like to ice his opening night lineup, with some roster positions still being fought over, that may not be possible.
Florida has 26 players -- not counting injured forward Rocco Grimaldi -- left in camp. The Panthers need to be at 23 by 5 p.m. on Monday.
"You have to give guys who are fighting for the jobs the opportunity,'' Gallant said. "There's such a long break between our last exhibition; if we play our team [Saturday], does it matter?"
SATURDAY: LIGHTNING AT PANTHERS
When, where: 7 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise
Radio: WQAM 560
Of note: This is the final exhibition game of the preseason for the Panthers with the 2015-16 season opener Oct. 10 against visiting Philadelphia.