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Has rule change cut down on shootouts?

by John Kreiser
The NHL Board of Governors changed a rule for this season, making non-shootout wins, rather than total wins, the first tiebreaker when teams end the season with the same number of points.

If the objective was to reduce the number of shootouts, then the rule appears to have worked, because the League is on track for the fewest shootouts since the tiebreaker was enacted for the 2005-06 season.

Through 1,065 games this season, there have been 124 shootouts, a pace that would result in 143 over a full 1,230-game season. That's a 22 percent drop from the 184 shootouts last season, and two fewer than the 145 in 2005-06, the first season the tiebreaker was used to settle games that were even after overtime.

It's not that a lot more games are being decided in regulation -- the 23.8 percent of games tied after 60 minutes are just slightly fewer than last season's 24.5 percent (254 so far; 283 over a 1,230-game season, down from 301 in 2009-10), and still more than any of the four previous seasons since the arrival of the shootout. But while 61.1 percent of games that went into overtime last season went to a shootout, that figure is down to 48.8 percent -- a number that would be the lowest in the shootout's six seasons.

Also at an all-time low is home teams' success in shootouts. Though both Atlanta and Montreal won Thursday night, home teams have won just 49 of the 124 shootouts(39.5 percent) -- that 's 10 percentage points lower than last season. Home teams have never won less than 48 percent of shootouts before this season.

Goalies are winning -- The shootout is the ultimate 1-on-1 battle -- shooter against goaltender. Goalies have historically won about two of every three confrontations, but they're doing better than ever this season.

With just more than three weeks remaining in the regular season, shooters have scored on 277 of 892 attempts, a success rate of 31.1 percent that would be the lowest in the tiebreaker's six seasons. The previous low was 32.1 percent, set last season -- and that came after shooters scored on 33.7 percent of their attempts in 2008-09, their best showing ever.

No one has been better than Jonathan Quick of the L.A. Kings. Quick is a perfect 7-0 in shootouts and has stopped 28 of 33 shots, a save percentage of .848 that's the best among all goalies who've faced 20 or more shots. Quick's teammate, Jarret Stoll, is tops among shooters with a percentage of .857 (6-for-7). Stoll is also tied for the League lead with 3 game-deciding shootout goals.

Last-minute heroics -- It had been more than three years since an NHL team rallied to tie a game in the final minute only to lose before regulation time expired. The Dallas Stars were involved in two such games in the first half of March.

The Stars allowed Phoenix to tie their March 1 game at Arena when Ray Whitney connected with 33 seconds left, but went home with a 3-2 win when Jamie Benn scored a power-play goal with 4.8 seconds remaining. Dallas was on the other side of the ledger on March 13, when Jamie Langenbrunner tied the game at 19:17, only to have Michal Handzus of the Kings score with 21 seconds remaining to give Los Angeles a 4-3 victory.

Prior to this month, this scenario hadn't happened since Nov. 29, 2007, when Ottawa's Daniel Alfredsson tied the game ay 19:14 -- only to see Nashville's Martin Erat score 23 seconds later to give the Predators a 6-5 win.

Islander-killer -- Though he's one of the NHL's most feared scorers, New York Rangers sniper Marian Gaborik is among the worst shootout performers ever -- he's 2-for-19 all-time, and his 10.5 percent success rate is the worst among any player who's taken 15 or more shorts.

Maybe he needs a few tries against the New York Islanders -- because he certainly has no trouble scoring against them in more conventional circumstances.

Gaborik scored twice against the Isles in Tuesday's 6-3 win, giving him 6 goals in five games against the Islanders this season. He has 14 goals in 14 games against the Isles since the start of the 2005-06 season, including 10 in 10 games since joining the Rangers for the 2009-10 season.

Gaborik's problem this season has been scoring against teams that don't wear blue and orange -- nine of his 20 goals have come in six games against the Islanders and Edmonton Oilers, meaning he has just 11 in the other 45 he's played.

Firing blanks -- The Carolina Hurricanes are still on the outside looking in at the top eight in the East, and a big reason is their inability to translate shots into goals.

The Hurricanes have dropped to ninth in the Eastern Conference entering this weekend's action due to a 1-3-1 slide in which they have scored just seven goals. But it's not because they're not getting opportunities.

The 'Canes were credited with 179 shots on goal during the five games, an average of 35.8 per game (for perspective, San Jose leads the League for the full season at 34.2), while allowing just 142 (28.4 per game) -- meaning Carolina took more than seven additional shots per game, yet was outscored 11-7.

Even more astounding is the discrepancy in shot attempts (shots at net, rather than on net). Carolina fired 375 shots at opposing goaltenders in its last five games -- an average of 75 per game. Opponents had 266, 53.2 per contest -- meaning that Carolina attempted nearly 22 more shots per game. Coach Paul Maurice might want to have his players work on getting their shots through -- opposing players blocked 121 shots during the five games (24.2 per game), including 32 by Toronto in the Leafs' 3-1 win on Wednesday.

The Hurricanes could be getting some help from the schedule-maker on Friday -- they host the New York Islanders, a team they've beaten four times in a row and have outscored 11-3 in the Isles' last two visits to Raleigh, including 7-2 in early November.
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