Let’s completely open our minds for a few minutes and imagine the possibilities of 4-on-4 hockey for the full 60 minutes of an NHL game.
Wide-open firewagon play with plenty of passing, playmaking, scoring opportunities and naturally, a ton of goals. Instead of the typical 5.44 goals per game we’re again seeing this season in the defense-oriented NHL, what could we see in 4-on-4 play for full regulation time?
Seven or eight goals per game in total? Maybe 10 or 12?
Based on the exciting brand of action we’re seeing in the five-minute 4-on-4 overtime sessions, who’s to say we wouldn’t be seeing a lot of 8-6 games? Maybe even an All-Star Game-like 12-8 scoring fest.
But the facts tell us scoring really wouldn’t go up if 4-on-4 was played permanently. In fact, scoring might even go down if games were played four skaters apiece.
Here are the facts: Twenty-seven games have been settled in overtime this season. The total playing time in those 27 games is about 64 minutes. Wow, at first glance, right? That’s about 25 goals over the course of a 60-minute game.
But you also have to take into account the 46 games this season that went to OT but were not been settled in overtime. That’s 46 games multiplied by five minutes. In other words, there has been about 294 minutes (almost five games worth) of 4-on-4 overtime with 27 goals scored this season. That’s about, brace yourselves, 5.5 goals per game.
Now there are certain mitigating factors that suggest the 4-on-4 play we see in the five-minute overtime session is a far cry from what we’d see in a 60-minute game, but who’s to say it would alter goal production one way or another.
Very few penalties are called in overtime, but there would be more power plays over the course of a regulation game. And 4-on-3 power plays are more efficient than 5-on-4 power plays. Having said that, teams generally play a carefree defensive style in overtime due to the fact they already have a point guaranteed. Of course, defensive strategies and muckers and grinders would surely have to come into play for a full 4-on-4 60-minute game.
One thing is for sure, though. There would be more skating and passing and back and forth action in a game played 4-on-4. Is it a viable option to consider in an effort to create more offense? Not in my opinion. It’s too drastic of an alteration.
And, I’m too much of a fan of hitting and plucky corner work to even consider 4-on-4 for more than the five minutes we’re currently seeing it.