Q: Can you explain the significance of the three stars of the game in the NHL? Is this stat tracked or used for anything other than game-night (purposes)? Is there a history around it?
Jay Wingerter, Erie
MOLINARI: The tradition dates to the 1936-37 season, when Imperial Oil became the principal sponsor of Hockey Night in Canada radio broadcasts and was seeking a way to promote one of its products, Three Star gasoline. The idea of doing so by selecting the top three performers in a particular game purportedly came from a Canadian advertising agency.
Many clubs do recognize the player with the most three-star selections with an award or trophy, usually in conjunction with a corporate sponsorship, at the end of the season (or sometimes, each month). All six Canadian franchises, for example, have an affiliation with a well-known brewery.
The NHL keeps track of its own three-stars-of-the-night selections, but that is done on a league-wide basis. The league employs a system that awards 30 points to a first star, 20 to a second star and 10 to a third - a running total can be found on the league's website - but it does not present an award based on them.
Q: Any thoughts on whether there might be a positive impact on the game if penalized teams weren't allowed to change lines prior to the first faceoff on the penalty-kill?
MOLINARI: It seems a bit radical, given that the players in question might not only be near the end of their shift but could be utterly incapable of performing effectively while their team is shorthanded, but if the object of the change would be to increase the number of power-play goals scored, that probably would be a pretty good start.
The thinking here, though, is that the change adopted this season, with the first faceoff of a power play being conducted in the defending team's zone under almost all circumstances, gives enough of an extra advantage to the team receiving the man-advantage.
(The four exceptions are as follows: The faceoff is held at center ice if the penalty in question is assessed after a goal is scored or at the beginning or end of a period. It is conducted in the neutral zone if the team not being penalized ices the puck or, "when the defending team is about to be penalized and the attacking players enter the attacking zone beyond the outer edge of the end zone faceoff circle.")
Q: Are the Penguins planning on releasing a third jersey this year? It would be great to see them in the Winter Classic jerseys again.
Andrew, Bluffton, Ohio
MOLINARI: The Penguins are, in fact, scheduled to use a third sweater this season and indications are that it will be similar, if not identical, to the powder-blue one they wore during the outdoors game in Buffalo Jan. 1. It might be a while, perhaps sometime in November, before the team actually goes public with the design, however.
Based on the number of inquiries Q&A readers have made about a third sweater in recent months - and the reaction to the throwback-style sweater they wore in the New Year's Day game - it figures to be pretty popular with fans when it finally is unveiled and becomes available in stores.