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Meet the NHL's shootout kings

Tuesday, 07.26.2011 / 3:30 PM / Inside the Numbers

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

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Meet the NHL's shootout kings
The shootout has become a staple of hockey life. NHL.com looks at the players who've fared the best in the six years of the tiebreaker.
It's hard to believe, but the shootout has been with us for six seasons. The breakaway competition was adopted in 2005 as a way to settle games that were tied after overtime. It has turned into a must-see -- how many times have you been flicking through TV channels and stopped to watch when you saw teams getting ready to go to the shootout?

Some teams and players have fared far better than others in the shootout -- and the most successful players aren't always the biggest names.

Alex Ovechkin has scored on 29.8 percent of his shootout tries -- below the average of 32.34 percent -- and Marian Gaborik, a two-time 40-goal scorer, is just 2 for 19 (10.5 percent). Meanwhile, players like Frans Nielsen, Radim Vrbata, Brad Boyes and Erik Christensen have been among the most successful.

Top goaltenders don't always fare well. Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff owns 276 career wins and a Vezina Trophy, but in shootouts he's just 20-27 with a .601 save percentage (the League average is .677). In contrast, journeyman goaltender Johan Hedberg, now with New Jersey, has turned aside 79.6 percent of the shootout tries he's faced, the most of any goaltender who's seen 10 or more attempts.

Performances can also vary from season to season -- the biggest example is Jarrett Stoll of Los Angeles, who was 2-for-6 in 2009-10 but went 9-for-10 in 2010-11.
Here's a look at some of the NHL's best at both ends of the shootout:

Shooters:

Frans Nielsen -- The NHL's leader in shorthanded goals last season with seven is also one of the League's best in the shootout. Nielsen was 5-for-8 in 2010-11, nudging his lifetime percentage to 59.3 (16-for-27), the highest among any player who has taken more than 10 shootout attempts.

Jussi Jokinen -- He's not as good (2-for-10 in '10-11) as he was when the shootout was born -- Jokinen scored on his first nine shootout attempts -- but the Finnish forward is tops in all-time shootout goals with 28, one more than Slava Kozlov. His 60 attempts are tied with Brad Richards for the most by any player.

Pavel Datsyuk -- Not only is Datsyuk prolific (26 goals) and effective (48.1 percent; fifth among players with 25 or more attempts), but the Detroit star is among the most entertaining players in shootout history. If the NHL awarded style points for shootout goals, Datsyuk would be right at the top of the heap.

Erik Christensen -- If any player could make a living as a shootout specialist, Christensen might be the one. He's never had more than 18 goals or 33 points in a season, and he's minus-11 in 338 regular-season games, but Christensen is money in the tiebreaker, where he was 5-for-8 (62.5 percent) in 2010-11 and at 53.5 percent (23-for-43) in his career.

Radim Vrbata -- Phoenix helped its chances in the shootout when it re-signed Vrbata for three more years. Vrbata was 7-for-11 (63.6 percent) last season and is 24-for-51 (47.1 percent) for his career with 10 game-deciding goals.

Jonathan Toews -- Chicago's captain has been a relatively consistent performer in the tiebreaker. He was 5-for-11 (45.5 percent) last season and is 19-for-37 (51.4 percent) in his four seasons in the NHL.

Sidney Crosby -- One thing that has helped to make Crosby great is his willingness to work at his weaknesses. That includes shootouts, where he was nothing special until going 8-for-10 in 2009-10. He was 1-for-4 in an injury-shortened 2010-11 season, but still leads all players in shootout history with 13 game-deciding goals

Goaltenders

Henrik Lundqvist -- No one has won more shootouts (37) or faced more shots (237) than Lundqvist, whose skill in the tiebreaker has been a key for the New York Rangers. His .768 save percentage is fifth -- although he undoubtedly would like another crack at the season-ending shootout goals he allowed on the final day of 2009-10 in Philadelphia. He rebounded with a 7-3 record in shootouts last season.

Pekka Rinne -- Nashville's tight-checking, low-scoring style generates a lot of shootouts; luckily for the Predators, Rinne is among the League's best in the tiebreaker. He was 6-4 last season and is 17-9 for his career with a .777 save percentage that's third all-time.

Jonathan Quick -- The former UMass star came into 2010-11 with a solid 12-7 record, then proceeded to put up one of the great seasons in shootout history. Quick's 10-0 record was one of the big reasons the Los Angeles Kings made the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and he allowed just 8 goals on 44 attempts. For his career, he's 22-7 with a .734 save percentage.

Marc-Andre Fleury -- At his best, "the Flower" often looks invincible in the shootout. He was 8-2 this past season for the injury-plagued Penguins and allowed just 6 goals on 38 shots, a save percentage of .842. For his career, he's 27-15 with a save percentage of .762.
Martin Brodeur -- The winningest goaltender in NHL history has helped himself in the shootout. Though his .717 save percentage is above average but not great, he's second all-time with 35 shootout victories in 54 tries.

Johan Hedberg -- Just as Christensen could make a living taking shots in the shootout, Hedberg could probably be able to make one by stopping them. Hedberg went 2-1 with a .727 save percentage while serving as Brodeur's backup in New Jersey last season, giving him an 18-6 career record in the tiebreaker with a .796 save percentage, the best of anyone who's active and been in more than 10 shootouts. He's especially good at home, going 10-1 with a save percentage of .848.

Quote of the Day

Not only is it a great idea, but if you don't [start using analytics] you're going to fall behind. You have to be on the cutting edge. It was [Arizona Coyotes assistant general manager] Darcy Regier who said, 'If you didn't invent it, you have to be the second- or third-best copier, because if you're fourth or fifth you've got no chance.'

— Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock on his interest in advanced statistical analysis