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Overtimes, shootouts reach record levels

by John Kreiser
With 24 regular-season games still remaining, 2009-10 already is assured of having more hockey played than any season in NHL history.

The 2009-10 season has seen a record 289 games that needed to go past regulation to determine a winner. That includes 113 games that have been decided in overtime, and a record 176 that have gone to a shootout. The previous highs were 282 overtime games, set last season, and 164 shootouts in 2006-07.

It's been a good season for goaltenders in the shootout. Shooters have scored on just under 32 percent of their 1,345 attempts, the lowest figure since the post-overtime tie-breaker was instituted for the 2005-06 season. As a result, the average shootout this season has seen a record 7.6 attempts taken -- up from 6.7 last season.

A record seven shootouts have gone 10 rounds or more, including two (Detroit-Nashville, 11 rounds, March 27; Phoenix-Nashville, 10 rounds, Feb. 2) that decided games which were scoreless through 65 minutes.

Shootout brilliance can come from unexpected sources. Phoenix set an NHL record this season with 14 shootout wins; the Coyotes got a big boost from defenseman Adrian Aucoin, who had never taken a shootout attempt before this season but has earned the nickname "The Closer" by going 6-for-8 -- with all six goals deciding the outcome.

There's no advantage to being the home team in a shootout -- visiting teams lead 89-87 and have won just over 50 percent of the shootouts in each of the last four seasons.

Nor is going first an advantage. Home teams won 51.7 percent in 2005-06, when the League mandated that visiting teams must shoot first; since then, the vast majority of home teams have opted to shoot first -- but have won slightly less than half of those games. Home teams shooting first this season have won 71 of 145 shootouts, a winning percentage of .490; those who shoot second are 16-15, a .516 winning percentage.

There was one first in the shootout this season -- on April 1, the New Jersey Devils and Chicago Blackhawks went to a shootout at the Prudential Center and the Devils opted to shoot first, something they never had done since the home team was first given the option in 2006. It didn't work, as the Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews scored on the first shot and Chicago won, 1-0, giving the Hawks a 2-1 win.

Marty the Magnificent -- Though he didn't beat the Blackhawks in the shootout last Friday, it's not surprising that Martin Brodeur is the king of the shootout -- after all, he became the first goaltender to reach 600 regular-season wins when he led the Devils to a 3-0 victory at Atlanta on Tuesday.

Brodeur has more shootout wins (34) than any goaltender, though his save percentage of .714 is only 10th among goalies with 10 or more decisions. Brodeur has been an equal-opportunity winner (17 each at home and on the road). He also owns one of this season's five 1-0 shootout victories -- and he had to work harder than anyone, stopping 51 shots through 65 minutes and four more in the tie-breaker before Patrik Elias scored in the fourth round for the win.

Brodeur's shutout over the Thrashers was the 110th of his career, also an NHL record. Shutout No. 109 came in his previous start, Saturday night in Carolina. Tuesday's victory marked only the second time in his career Brodeur has had back-to-back road shutouts during the regular season -- the other came in March 1998, when he blanked Colorado and Phoenix in consecutive games. It also was the fifth of his career at Philips Arena, the most he's had in any visiting building.

The consecutive shutouts also gave Brodeur 10 in April during his career -- meaning he's hit double figures in every calendar month.

Saying goodbye -- The Pittsburgh Penguins bid farewell to Mellon Arena (at least for the regular season) Thursday by beating the New York Islanders, 7-3. The Penguins finished 858-576-205-28 in the 1,667 regular-season games they've played in the only home they've known since entering the NHL in 1967.

The Pens were a lot better in the Igloo in their last 20 years than they were from 1967-90. From the beginning of the franchise through the 1989-90 season, Pittsburgh was 435-337-137 in its home arena. Beginning in 1990-91, when the Pens won the first of their three Stanley Cups, they were 423-239-68-28.

The Penguins enjoyed more success against cross-state rival Philadelphia than any other team -- their 58 wins against the Flyers at Mellon Arena are more than they had against any other team. They won 56 times against the New York Rangers and 54 times against the Islanders.

Turnabout -- Dion Phaneuf has had all of one goal since the former All-Star defenseman came to Toronto from Calgary in a trade on Jan. 31 -- it came Wednesday in a 5-1 loss to the New York Rangers. But Phaneuf's arrival appears to have worked wonders for the Leafs' previously leaky penalty-kill.

Before Phaneuf arrived, Toronto was killing just 70.1 percent of power plays -- last in the League and a number than was on target to become one of the worst performances since the NHL made this an official statistic in the 1960s.

Since Phaneuf came to Toronto, however, the Leafs have allowed just 12 goals in 82 attempts, an 85.4-percent success rate that would be fourth in the NHL over a full season. It's a measure of the Leafs' pre-Phaneuf problems that even with the improvement over the last 25 games, they still are last in the NHL, though they've improved to 74.6 percent.

Though their penalty-killing has improved, the Leafs are threatening to finish the season with a rare and unwanted daily double: They entered the final three days of the season last in the NHL in penalty killing and on the power play (14.0 percent). Toronto has been remarkably consistent in its power-play problems -- the Leafs are exactly 22-for-157 (14.0 percent) both at home and on the road.

Other oddities -- Some other odd statistical occurrences as the 2009-10 season comes to an end:

* The Chicago Blackhawks, who have a franchise-record 51 victories, have scored just one empty-net goal. Carolina, which has been out of the playoff chase for almost the entire season, has 12.

* Columbus' Rick Nash has the season's only 3-on-5 goal (Oct. 20, against Calgary). But Minnesota's Owen Nolan did something even more unique -- he scored a 3-on-6 goal, hitting the empty net against Toronto on Nov. 10 with his team skating three men down after the Leafs pulled their goaltender.

* Calgary, despite the presence of Jarome Iginla, has been shut out or scored just one goal 25 times -- a big reason the Flames are out of the playoffs for the first time since 2003. The Boston Bruins also have failed to reach the two-goal mark 25 times, though they may hang on for a berth in the East.

* Washington has won its last four games (three this season, with one remaining) against Boston -- the Caps' longest winning streak against the Bruins. It's a little payback -- the Bruins went 26 games (21-0-5) without losing to the Capitals after Washington joined the NHL in 1974.

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