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Overtime, shootouts on rise in season's first half

by John Kreiser
If it seems like a growing number of games are going past the regulation 60 minutes, that's because they are.

Through the first half of the 2008-09 season, 143 of the 615 games played were tied at the end of regulation. That 23.3 percent figure, if it holds in the second half, would be the highest since the shootout was added in 2005-06. Last season saw 22.1 percent of games (272 of 1,230) decided after regulation, down from 22.8 percent (281 of 1,230) in both 2006-07 and 2005-06.

Of the 143 games that went past regulation, 61 (43.2 percent) were decided in overtime and 82 (56.8 percent) went to a shootout. The percentage that went to a shootout is down slightly from 57.4 percent last season and 58.4 percent in 2006-07.

Here's a look at the best and worst in overtime and shootouts during the first half:

Living on the edge -- The Philadelphia Flyers have given their fans a lot of bonus hockey. The Flyers, the leaders in the Atlantic Division, played a League-high 16 first-half games that were tied after 60 minutes. Philadelphia had a 5-4 record in an NHL-leading nine games that were decided in overtime, but just 2-5 when the game went to a shootout.

The New York Rangers were next with 14 games that were tied after regulation, followed by Montreal, Detroit and Tampa Bay with 13. The Rangers were tops with 10 post-regulation victories.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Phoenix Coyotes played a League-low five games that went past regulation. Maybe that was a good thing: The Coyotes were the only team to go winless in the first half when th game was decided in overtime or a shootout -- though they did win a shootout in their first game of the second half.

On Broadway --
Were it not for their shootout success, the Rangers would be battling to make the playoffs instead of competing for the Atlantic Division title. The Rangers and Montreal Canadiens were the busiest teams in the shootout -- each involved in 10, meaning that just about one in every four games these teams played were not decided in 65 minutes of play.

The Rangers went 8-2 in their shootouts, the most wins by any team (Colorado was next at 7-1), while the Canadiens were 6-4. The Rangers had most of their success at home, where they were 6-1. Colorado and Detroit both went 4-1 on the road -- the Wings also won their lone home shootout for a 5-1 overall mark.

In contrast, the Calgary Flames were involved in only one shootout, a home loss to Florida on Dec. 12. Every team had at least one home shootout, but four clubs -- the Flames, Atlanta Thrashers, Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes -- didn't take part in any on the road.

The Tampa Bay Lightning was involved in nine shootouts, more than anyone except the Rangers and Canadiens, but missed out on a lot of opportunities for extra points. The Bolts lost a League-high seven shootouts -- all of them involving goaltender Mike Smith, who was 3-0 lifetime before this season and had stopped all nine shots he'd faced, but is 2-7 this season and has stopped just 12 of a League-high 27 shots.

In contrast, the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist, tied for second with 24 shots faced, was beaten only three times.

Next after the Lightning with five losses were the Flyers (2-5), Chicago Blackhawks (2-5) and Vancouver Canucks (1-5). The Canucks were 3-0 in games decided in overtime but lost five of six when the teams were tied after 65 minutes.

Flying high -- Jeff Carter finished the first half in a three-way tie for the NHL goal-scoring lead. However, he was all by himself when it came to overtime winners. Carter got three of Philadelphia's five overtime winners -- one more than teammate Mike Richards, who had the other two.

New Jersey's Zach Parise was the only other player with more than one overtime winner; he matched Richards with two.

No player in the past 10 seasons has had more than four overtime winners. The last player to get that many was Vancouver's Daniel Sedin, who did it in 2006-07.

Rocky Mountain high -- Carter's overtime prowess didn't extend to shootouts, in which he was scoreless in four tries -- one of seven players who missed all four shots. Boston's Patrice Bergeron was a League-worst 0-for-5.

Maybe they could learn something from Colorado's Wojtek Wolski, who topped all players who had taken four or more shots by scoring six times in seven tries for a shooting percentage of .857. The six goals were one more than Nikolai Zherdev of the New York Rangers, who scored five times on a League-high 10 shots.

Zherdev was one of three players with three game-deciding goals. Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk, Buffalo's Ales Kotalik and Wolski's teammate Marek Svatos were the others. Wolski had only one deciding goal.

Among players with three or more shots, the only one who was perfect was San Jose's Ryane Clowe, who buried all three of his attempts.

Odds and ends -- Some statistical tidbits:

-- The Los Angeles Kings played nine overtime/shootout games in the first half -- all of them at home.
-- Atlanta was the only team that hadn't lost a shootout (2-0). Boston (1-0), Colorado (1-0), Nashville (3-0) and Vancouver (3-0) were the only ones that haven't lost in overtime.
-- The Vancouver Canucks and Anaheim Ducks played the only shootout that went beyond 10 rounds. Mattias Ohlund's goal in the 13th round gave Vancouver the victory on Halloween night. The score: 7-6.
-- Carolina's shooters went 2-for-2 in the Hurricanes' lone shootout at home. On the road, 'Canes shooters were 0-for-10.
-- Goaltender Jason LaBarbera has gone winless with two teams. He's a combined 0-5 with Los Angeles (0-3) and Vancouver (0-2). LaBarbera has more losses without a victory than any other goaltender; Florida's Craig Anderson is next at 0-4.
-- Minnesota goaltender Niklas Backstrom was perfect -- he's stopped all eight shots he's faced, the only goaltender who's faced eight or more chances and not been beaten. LaBarbera's .313 percentage (5-16) is the poorest.
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