|Anze Kopitar #11 of the Los Angeles Kings scores a goal in a shoot out against Tim Thomas #30 of the Boston Bruins|
It's hard to believe, but the shootout has been with us for five seasons. The breakaway competition was adopted in 2005 as a way to settle games tied after overtime and 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 some 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 less than 28 percent of his shootout tries -- below the average of just under 33 percent -- and Marian Gaborik, a two-time 40-goal scorer, is just 2-for-18 (11 percent). Gaborik's former Minnesota teammate, Niklas Backstrom, is one of the NHL's best goaltenders -- but he's stopped less than 60 percent of the shootout attempts he's faced, while journeyman goaltender Johan Hedberg has turned aside more than 80 percent.
Performances also can vary from season to season -- the biggest example is Wojtek Wolski, now with Phoenix, who was 1-for-15 last season -- after dominating goaltenders in 2008-09 with 10 goals on only 12 attempts.
Here's a look at some of the NHL's best at both ends of the shootout:Shooters:Jussi Jokinen, Hurricanes
-- Jokinen had a breakout season in 2009-10, ringing up 30 goals for the Hurricanes. But before that, he was far better known for his skills in the shootout. Jokinen was one of the early stars of the breakaway competition, going 10-for-13 in the first season while playing for Dallas. He hasn't kept up that pace, but he remains among the most successful shooters, with 26 goals in 50 tries, a 52-percent success rate.Sidney Crosby, Penguins
-- Crosby was ordinary in shootouts until this past season, when he scored a League-leading 8 goals on only 10 tries. Overall, Crosby has scored 20 times in 48 attempts (41.7 percent), but has done a great job of making his goals count -- his 13 game-deciding goals are the most of any player.Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks
-- Chicago's captain matched his Pittsburgh counterpart last season and tied for the League lead with 8 shootout goals, though he took four more attempts than Crosby. It was the second season in a row Toews connected on more than 55 percent of his shootout tries -- he was 6-for-10 in 2008-09 and now is 14-for-26 (53.8 percent) in his career.Pavel Datsyuk, Red Wings
-- Datsyuk has scored some of the most spectacular shootout goals of anyone in the NHL, but he's also among the most prolific and effective scorers. He was among the League leaders again last season with 7 goals in 14 tries (50 percent). For his career, Datsyuk is now 24-for-50, a 48-percent success rate that's in the top 10 among players with 15 or more attempts.Frans Nielsen, Islanders
-- Nielsen is a one-trick pony, but goaltenders have yet to figure out how to stop his deke-and-backhand move. The Danish center was 7-for-12 (58.3 percent) last season and is 11-for-19 in his three NHL seasons, a 57.9-percent success rate.Anze Kopitar, Kings
-- Not only has Kopitar turned into the top scorer on the Kings, he's also their big gun in shootouts. Kopitar went 8-for-16 (50 percent) last season and now is 18-for-40 (45 percent) for his career, with 6 game-deciding goals. Joe Pavelski, Sharks
-- "Little Joe" is still one of the NHL's big guns in shootouts despite a merely average 3-for-9 (33.3 percent) showing in 2009-10. For his career, he's 17-for-33 (51.5 percent), making him one of five players with 30 or more attempts to convert at least half of them.Zach Parise, Devils
-- New Jersey has been one of the most successful teams in the five years of the shootout, and Parise is a big reason why. He was 5-for-11 (45.5 percent) last season, is 9-for-19 (47.4 percent) in the last two and 21-for-47 (44.7 percent) for his career, with 9 game-deciders. Few players have been as consistently successful.Adrian Aucoin, Coyotes
-- Aucoin went 4 1/2 seasons without taking a shootout attempt and got his chance only because the Coyotes were running out of shooters in a 10-rounder against Nashville in February. Aucoin zipped home a high wrist shot to win that game and wound up scoring on his first five attempts -- all game-deciding goals. He finished by going 6-for-9 (66.7 percent) and leading the NHL with 6 deciding goals, a single-season record.Slava Kozlov (free agent)
-- We've left the most prolific scorer in shootout history for last only because it's not certain where he'll be come fall. While Kozlov has slowed somewhat at age 38, the numbers say he'd be worth keeping around for his shootout skills alone. Kozlov was 4-for-6 for the Atlanta Thrashers last season, giving him a career mark of 27-for-46 (58.7 percent). The 27 goals are the most by any player since the shootout began, and his percentage is the highest of anyone who's taken 15 or more shots.Goaltenders:Martin Brodeur, Devils
-- The winningest goaltender in NHL history also is the winningest goaltender in the shootout. Brodeur has 34 shootout victories, four more than anyone else, while taking part in a League-record 52 of the breakaway competitions. He shares the single-season record of 10 victories (he did it in 2006-07) and was 6-4 with a .710 save percentage in '09-10, just a hair under his career mark of .714.Johan Hedberg, Devils
-- New Jersey doesn't figure to struggle in shootouts this season even when coach John MacLean gives Brodeur a night off. Hedberg, who played with Dallas in 2005-06 and Atlanta the last four seasons, is a combined 16-5 with an .805 save percentage that leads all goaltenders who have taken part in 20 or more shootouts. He never has lost a shootout at home, going 8-0 with the Stars and Thrashers.Kari Lehtonen, Stars
-- Hedberg's former partner with the Thrashers also has been superb in shootouts -- he's 21-8 all-time with a .755 save percentage, allowing only 23 goals on 94 shots. The Stars, who were dreadful in shootouts last season, hope Lehtonen's magic came with him when they acquired him late last season.Pekka Rinne, Predators
-- When your team struggles to score, you'd better have a goaltender who's good at shootouts, and Nashville has one in Rinne. He's 11-5 in his two NHL seasons while posting a .768 save percentage. For whatever reason, Rinne gets in a lot more shootouts when playing at home; he's 12-3 at Bridgestone Arena but just 1-2 on the road.Rick DiPietro, Islanders
-- His career has been derailed by injuries over the past three seasons, but DiPietro always has been among the NHL's best at the breakaway competition. He won his only shootout last season, improving to 17-9 with a .737 save percentage. DiPietro rivals Hedberg as the most successful goaltender in home shootouts: He's 10-1 at the Nassau Coliseum, the best of any goalie in 10 or more shootouts on home ice.
Author: John Kreiser | NHL.com Columnist