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A look at the first 1,000 (and counting) shootouts

by John Kreiser
It was somehow appropriate that the 1,000th shootout in NHL history involved the Edmonton Oilers.

The NHL adopted the shootout in 2005 to settle games that were still even after the five-minute overtime. Since then, about 12.9 percent of games -- slightly more than one in eight -- have gone to the shootout. The Oilers' loss to Minnesota in a six-round affair on Nov. 30 came in the 1,000th shootout since the tiebreaker was adopted -- and it was the 80th for the Oilers, tying them with the New York Rangers for the most by any team during the first 1,000 tiebreakers.

No one knew what would happen when the shootout was adopted six years ago. Would the game's biggest stars be dominant? Would shooters have the advantage? Which teams would be the best -- and worst?

Here's a look at the answers to some of those questions:

Team disparity -- The Rangers passed the Oilers on Thursday for the most shootouts by taking part in their 81st. Dallas is third at 78, followed by Boston with 77. Seven other teams have been involved in at least 70.

In contrast, four teams have played in 55 or fewer shootouts. Carolina's 49 make the 'Canes the only team that hasn't taken part in at least 50. Philadelphia has been involved in 54, one less than Ottawa and Calgary.

And while it's not a hard-and-fast rule, the old adage that "practice makes perfect" works pretty well with shootouts. The three teams that have been involved in the most shootouts all have solid winning percentages, as do four of the top six. In contrast, the seven teams that have taken part in the fewest shootouts (61 or less) all are under .500.

Road-ice advantage -- Home teams win more than half of all games decided in regulation, but the shootout is another matter. Through the first 1,000 shootouts, home teams won 474, while visiting clubs won 526 (road teams are 5-4 in the nine shootouts since then).

Home teams haven't posted a winning record since 2005-06, the first season of the shootout -- and the only season in which the NHL mandated that road teams had to shoot first. The rule was changed for 2006-07 to give home teams the choice of when to shoot; most home teams opted to go first -- and visiting teams have had a winning record ever since. That includes this season, in which home teams are 21-31, and last season, when they were 58-91, including 49-73 when shooting first.

No team has fared worse at home in the shootout than Florida. The Panthers' 39 home shootouts are more than all but three other teams, but their 31 losses at BankAtlantic Center are by far the most of any home team (Washington is next with 25). In contrast to their 8-31 record at home, the Panthers are actually over .500 (17-16) on the road. But because of the Panthers' home struggles, Florida has 47 losses, the most by any team; Columbus is next with 44.


B's and Wild had memorable Novembers

By John Kreiser - Columnist
The Boston Bruins and Minnesota Wild will be hard-pressed to match their accomplishments from November now that the calendar has turned.
Dallas (27-14) and Pittsburgh (27-17) are the winningest teams on the road. Colorado (26-12) is the only road team to win more than two-thirds of its road shootouts, a standard of success no home team has accomplished.

No team has been more balanced than the Oilers. They have played exactly 40 shootouts each at home and on the road -- and have the same record in both places: 21-19.

The three New York-area teams have been unusually successful at home. New Jersey (25-14) leads all teams in home wins, while the Rangers (22-14) are next and the Islanders (21-14) are one of three teams with 21. The Devils' win on Thursday was their 48th overall, one more than the Rangers and two in front of Dallas.

All three New York teams have had more home wins than the Calgary Flames have had home shootouts. The Flames have been involved in a League-low 20 tiebreakers at Scotiabank Saddledome -- and won only five of them, fewer than anyone else.

Shooters vs. stoppers -- You might think that letting shooters keep racing in on breakaways would be a nightmare for goaltenders. But in actuality, the goalies have done quite well for themselves.

Including the first nine weeks of this season, shooters have taken 7,107 shootout attempts and scored on 2,305, a success rate of 32.4 percent -- not quite one in three. Shooters had their best season in 2008-09, scoring on 33.7 percent of their 1,059 attempts. Goalies have turned the tide since then, limiting shooters to 32.1 percent in 2009-10 and a record low of 30.6 percent in 2010-11-- though shooters scored on 113 of their first 337 attempts this season, a 33.5 percent success rate.

There were 145 shootouts in 2005-06, the first season the tiebreaker was used, and the number climbed as high as 184 (15 percent of all games) in 2009-10. A rule change that made shootout wins less valuable in breaking ties for playoff position may have helped cut that number to 149 last season, and teams are on pace for 153 in 2011-12.

Shooting stars -- These days, Jussi Jokinen takes a regular shift with the Carolina Hurricanes. But he might not have that job were it not for the shootout.

Jussi Jokinen
Left Wing - CAR
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 13 | PTS: 17
SOG: 43 | +/-: -2
Jokinen, then a virtual unknown with the Dallas Stars, scored on the first nine shootout attempts he took in 2005-06, a big reason the Stars went 12-1 in the first season of the tiebreaker. He's cooled off since then, but still leads all players in the history of the shootout with 28 goals (on 62 tries); that's one more than former Red Wing and Thrasher Slava Kozlov, current Detroit center Pavel Datsyuk and New Jersey captain Zach Parise, who had his 27th on Thursday.

Kozlov's 58.7 percent success rate (27-for-46) is the best of any player with 25 or more attempts. Neither Sidney Crosby (40.4 percent) nor Phil Kessel (31.9) can match that kind of success rate, but they do share the lead with 13 game-deciding goals.

But success during regulation and overtime has not been a guarantee of shootout success -- even for 50-goal scorers: Alex Ovechkin is 18-for-59 (30.5 percent), Vincent Lecavalier is 12-for-49 (24.5 percent), Dany Heatley is 5-for-27 (18.5 percent) and Steven Stamkos is 4-for-23 (17.4 percent).

Stoppers -- No goaltender has taken part in more shootouts than the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist, who's been in 65. He's been pretty good at it -- his 38 wins are the most of anyone, as are the 248 attempts he's faced; no one else has even reached 200.

But no one has been better at stopping shooters than Johan Hedberg, now with the New Jersey Devils. Among all goaltenders who've taken part in 15 or more shootouts, Hedberg's .775 save percentage (25 goals allowed on 111 shots) is tops. He is 23-7 in 30 shootouts after beating Ottawa on Thursday.
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