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A look at some of the stars of the shootout

by John Kreiser
We've now had four seasons in which games that remain tied after overtime have been decided by a shootout -- a breakaway competition of three (or more, as needed) rounds in which shooters go 1-on-1 with goaltenders.

Those four seasons have shown that some players and some teams are better at the shootout than others. Most interesting is the fact that some of hockey's big names have struggled in the shootout, while a number of lesser lights have shone brightly.

Here's a look at some of the best of the first four seasons of the shootout:

Mr. Perfect -- Fifteen active players have scored on all of their shootout attempts -- but 14 of those have only one try. Dallas captain Brenden Morrow is the only player in the NHL who's perfect in more than one attempt: He's 2-for-2, and both goals were game-deciders.

The 14 players who are 1-for-1 don't include many household names -- they're guys who got their chance in a long shootout after teams exhausted their big guns. However, most of them did come through in the clutch; 10 of them scored the game-deciding goal.

Boston's Chuck Kobasew is the complete opposite -- he's never scored in a shootout, although he's had eight tries. That's the most attempts by a shooter without beating the goaltender, two more than Florida's Michael Frolik and Calgary's Dion Phaneuf.

The best shooter who's taken 10 or more shots is former Minnesota defenseman Petteri Nummelin, who went 8-for-10 (.800) in 2005-06 and 2006-07. The best with 20 or more tries is Colorado's Wojtek Wolski, who's 17-for-26 (.654) after going 10-for-12 in 2008-09. No other shooter with 10 or more tries has scored on more than 60 percent of his chances.

Mr. Clutch -- The average success rate on shootout attempts is approximately 33 percent -- one out of three. That means Sidney Crosby, who's scored on 31.6 percent of his attempts, is slightly below average. But no player is better than Crosby at making his shots count.

Crosby has scored just 12 times in his 38 shootout attempts, but nine of the 12 were game-deciding goals. He's tied with Phil Kessel and Viktor Kozlov for third in GDGs; Slava Kozlov and Ales Kotalik are first with 11.

Pittsburgh's captain has been especially timely on the road. He's just 5-for-21 away from Mellon Arena -- but all five have decided the outcome.

Super stopper -- Several goaltenders have had excellent seasons in shootouts, but it's hard to envision anyone topping the effort Mathieu Garon turned in for Edmonton in 2007-08.

Garon was only 16-18 in games decided in regulation and lost his only overtime decision. But he was flawless -- and nearly unbeatable -- when it came to shootouts. Garon was a perfect 10-0 for the Oilers, who set an NHL team record with 15 shootout wins. He was 5-0 at Rexall Place and 5-0 on the road while allowing just two goals on 32 attempts, a .932 percentage. He stopped all 14 attempts he faced in the five road wins.

For his career, Garon has a 16-4 record in shootouts, including 11 consecutive victories. His career winning percentage of .800 is tied with Atlanta's Johan Hedberg (12-3) for the best of any goaltender who's played in 15 or more shootouts. His 10 wins in '07-08 are tied with Martin Brodeur and Ryan Miller (both in 2006-07) for the most in a single season.

What happened? -- New York Islanders forward Trent Hunter was one of the early shootout aces, scoring on his first two tries and five of his first seven -- including a pair of game-deciding goals. But since beating Martin Brodeur for the deciding goal in a 2-1 victory on March 7, 2006, Hunter hasn't been able to buy a goal.

The former Calder Trophy finalist has failed to score on his last 13 shootout attempts, the longest streak in the League. Toronto's Alex Ponikarovsky is next with 11.

But struggling in the shootout happens to big names as well. Crosby and two-time 50-goal scorer Ilya Kovalchuk of the Atlanta Thrashers have had streaks of 10 misses, Ottawa's Dany Heatley hasn't scored on his last nine tries, while Evgeni Malkin and Jarome Iginla both have 0-for-9 streaks on their resumes.

The most successful streak shooter is Jussi Jokinen, now with Carolina. Jokinen was with Dallas in 2005-06 when he scored on his first nine attempts

Plenty of practice -- The left biceps injury that sidelined Brodeur for 50 games last season likely cost him a line in the record book, at least for a while. With his Atlantic Division rival on the sidelines, Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers passed Brodeur for playing in the most shootouts. Lundqvist has taken part in 45, three more than Brodeur.

However, Brodeur does own the record for most shootout victories with 28, one more than Lundqvist.

Does practice make perfect? -- The Rangers are the runaway leader in taking part in shootouts. They've been involved in 58 -- seven more than New Jersey and Edmonton. Buffalo is the only other team that's played in 50 shootouts.

Maybe it's all the practice, but all four teams have winning records in shootouts, with only the Sabres (.540) owning a success rate of less than 60 percent.

The Rangers have taken part in more than twice as many shootouts as the Calgary Flames and Carolina Hurricanes, who are last with 28. Maybe it's the lack of practice, but neither team has done well -- Calgary is 11-17 (.393) and Carolina is 13-15 (.464).

In fact, of the five teams that have been involved in the fewest shootouts, only the Phoenix Coyotes (17-14, .548) have a winning record.
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