The San Jose Sharks were among the NHL's weakest teams in the shootout in the first two seasons the League used the penalty-shot competition to decide games tied after overtime. They won just 3 of 12 games, fewer wins than any other NHL team.
That changed in 2007-08, thanks to one of the NHL's best young players and one of its senior citizens.
Center Joe Pavelski, a 23-year-old playing his first full NHL season, turned out to be one of the NHL's deadliest scorers in shootouts with 7 goals in 11 tries, tying him with Chicago's Patrick Kane for the League lead. His 63.6-percent success rate was nearly double the League mark of 32.5.
But Pavelski had some help in making shootouts miserable for opposing goaltenders.
Jeremy Roenick, who turned 38 at midseason and had taken only three shootout attempts in the previous two seasons, signed with the Sharks as a free agent last summer and showed that he still had some skills left. Not only did he get 14 goals, including 10 game-winners, but he also showed himself to be a marksman in the shootout, scoring 4 times in 5 tries. Three of the goals were game-deciders.
Pavelski and Roenick aren't the only shootout sharpshooters in the Western Conference. Here are some of the other shooters in the West who make life miserable for goaltenders:
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks -- Kane won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie in 2007-08 after leading all first-year players in scoring. Kane also was a sensation at the shootout, scoring 7 goals in 9 tries to tie Joe Pavelski for the most successful attempts. His 77.8-percent success rate was the best among all players who had more than 6 attempts.
Ales Hemsky, Edmonton Oilers -- Hemsky had lots of chances on the shootout; he was second in the NHL to teammate Sam Gagner with 16 attempts. Hemsky's 6 goals were one short of the League lead, and he tied for second with 4 game-deciding goals.
Brad Richards, Dallas Stars -- Richards was deadly on shootouts while playing with Tampa Bay before shifting to Dallas on trade-deadline day, and he should keep Dallas among the NHL's best this season. He has 14 goals in 25 career attempts, a .560 percentage, including 3 goals in 4 tries last season.
Sergei Zubov, Dallas Stars -- Dallas has been one of the NHL's best shootout teams, and Zubov is a big reason why. Zubov's 13 shootout goals in 29 attempts (despite going 1-for-5 in an injury-plagued 2007-08) are more than any other defenseman in the League, and 7 of those have been game-deciders.
Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings -- Datsyuk's brilliance on the ice extends to shootouts, as well. He converted 4 times in 10 tries last season and has a career mark of 12-for-26 (46.2 percent) in three seasons.
Wojtek Wolski, Colorado Avalanche -- The Avs might want to make sure Wolski always gets a chance to shoot. He was 4-for-8 last season and is a career 50-percent shooter, with 7 goals in 14 tries.
Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild -- No player currently playing in the West starts the season with as many shootout goals as Koivu, who has 13 in 28 attempts despite being stopped 7 times in 8 tries last season. Before 2007-08, he was 12-for-21, a .571 percentage.
Paul Kariya, St. Louis Blues -- Like Koivu, Kariya is coming off a bad shootout season (0-for-6) but is still among the League's most successful shootout artists. Despite his struggles in 2007-08, he still has a 50-percent success rate, with 12 goals in 24 tries.
Shawn Horcoff, Edmonton Oilers -- Horcoff didn't get nearly as many attempts as some of his teammates, but he made the most of the ones he had, scoring 5 times in 7 tries for a 71.4-percent success rate.
Patrick O'Sullivan, Los Angeles Kings -- The Kings got a couple of surprises from O'Sullivan last season. Not only did he score 22 goals and 53 points in his first full NHL season, but he connected on 4 of his 5 shootout attempts after going 0-for-2 in 2006-07. Three of the goals were game-deciders.
Author: John Kreiser | NHL.com Columnist