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Shootout success isn't limited to stars

Saturday, 07.21.2012 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

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Shootout success isn't limited to stars
NHL.com looks at some of the shooters and goalies who have fared the best in the seven years of the tiebreaker.

It's hard to believe, but the shootout has been with us for seven seasons. The breakaway competition was adopted in 2005 as a way to settle NHL games that were tied after overtime. It has turned into must-see TV -- how many times have you been flicking through the channels and stopped to watch when you saw teams heading to the shootout?

Some teams and players have fared far better than others -- and the most successful players aren't always the biggest names. Dany Heatley, a two-time 50-goal scorer, and 2011 Art Ross Trophy winner Daniel Sedin have lifetime percentages of 18.2 in the shootout -- well below the all-time League average of 32.72 percent. Marian Gaborik, a three-time 40-goal scorer, is 6-for-26 (23.1 percent). But Frans Nielsen and Erik Christensen, who've never been big-time scorers during regulation and overtime, are among the most successful in the tiebreaker.

Nor do top goaltenders always fare well. Miikka Kiprusoff owns 311 career wins and a Vezina Trophy, but in shootouts he's 23-35 with .607 save percentage (the League average is .673). In contrast, journeyman goaltender Johan Hedberg has turned aside 77.0 percent of the shootout tries he's faced, the most of any goaltender who's seen at least 70 attempts.

Performances can vary from season to season -- the biggest example is Jarrett Stoll, who was 2-for-6 in 2009-10, 9-for-10 in 2010-11, and 2-for-8 last season.

Here's a look at some of the NHL's best at both ends of the shootout:

SHOOTERS

Frans Nielsen
Frans Nielsen
Center - NYI
GOALS: 17 | ASST: 30 | PTS: 47
SOG: 133 | +/-: -3
Frans Nielsen, New York Islanders -- The center had a career-high 17 goals last season, yet he's been one of the League's best in the shootout for the past few seasons. Nielsen was 7-for-11 in 2011-12, nudging his lifetime percentage to .605 (23-for-38), the highest among any player who has taken at least 15 shootout attempts.

Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings -- Not only is Datsyuk a prolific (31 goals, the most of any player) and effective (47.1 percent) scorer in the tiebreaker, but the center is among the most entertaining players in shootout history. If the NHL awarded style points for shootout goals, Datsyuk would be at the top of the heap.

Erik Christensen, free agent -- 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-24 in 387 regular-season games, but the veteran center is money in the tiebreaker -- he was 5-for-9 (55.6 percent) in 2011-12 and is 53.8 percent (28-for-52) in his career.

Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks -- The forward has been a relatively consistent performer in the tiebreaker. He was 3-for-7 (42.9 percent) last season and is 22-for-44 (50.0 percent) in his five seasons in the NHL.

Ilya Kovalchuk, New Jersey Devils -- Kovalchuk was below-average (11-for-42, 26.2 percent) before 2011-12, when he had the greatest season by a shooter in the seven-year history of the tiebreaker. The wing set a single-season record with 11 goals on 14 attempts (78.6 percent) and broke the mark for game-deciding goals with seven.

STOPPERS

NHL INSIDER

Shootout retrospective: Seven year history

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist
NHL.com looks at the players and teams that have separated themselves from the pack in the seven years of the shootout. READ MORE ›
Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils -- The winningest goaltender in NHL history is also No. 1 in the shootout. Though his .719 save percentage is above average but not great, he's tops with 42 shootout victories in 63 tries, a .667 winning percentage.

Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers -- No one has faced more shootout shots (262) than Lundqvist. His .763 save percentage is third all-time among goaltenders who've faced at least 100 shots -- although he undoubtedly would like another crack at the season-ending shootout goals he allowed on the final day of 2009-10 in Philadelphia, a loss that kept his team out of the playoffs.

Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins -- At his best, "The Flower" often looks invincible in the shootout. He had a League-leading nine wins in 11 decisions last season, allowing nine goals on 39 shots, a save percentage of .769 (the NHL average was .662). For his career, he's 36-17 with a save percentage of .763.

Johan Hedberg, New Jersey Devils -- Just as Christensen could make a living taking shots in the shootout, Hedberg could probably make one by stopping them. Hedberg went 5-2 while serving as Brodeur's backup last season, giving him a 23-8 career record in the tiebreaker with a .770 save percentage. He's especially good at home, going 12-3 with a save percentage of .790 in his career.

Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche -- Varlamov had his ups and downs during his first season with Colorado, but his performance in the shootout was a major reason the Avs stayed in the playoff race until the end of the season. The 24-year-old went 8-0 in the tiebreaker, stopping 22 of the 24 attempts he faced. For his career, he's 12-6 with a .785 save percentage.

Quote of the Day

I think that’s the sign of a good team. When you don’t play well, and you don’t stay focused and you don’t do the intangibles that it takes, you still win the hockey game.

— New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano after their win vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday
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