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Surveying the shootout

by John Kreiser
The shootout is well into its fourth season as the NHL's way of deciding games that are tied after the five-minute overtime. Since its adoption at the start of the 2005-06 season, the shootout has decided 534 games — roughly one in every eight.

Some team — and some players — have fared markedly better than others. Goaltenders stop slightly more than two of every three attempts, with the best stopping more than 85 percent and the worst well under 50. While shooters succeed on roughly one of every three attempts, the best are well over 50 percent, the worst under 10.

Here's a survey of the shootout as it nears the midpoint of its fourth season:

Kings of the shootout — The two winningest teams in the history of the shootout live about a half-hour apart. The New York Rangers lead all teams with 32 shootout victories (in 51 tries, also the most of any team), one more than the New Jersey Devils (31 of 49). The Rangers entered the season three wins behind their metropolitan area rivals, but have raced past them by winning eight of nine this season while the Devils are 4-2.

Only two other teams, the Dallas Stars and Edmonton Oilers, have more than 25 shootout wins. Dallas ' .737 winning percentage (28-10) is the best of any team.

The Devils and Rangers have both done their best work at home. New Jersey is first all-time with 19 home wins (in 29 tries), while the Rangers are next with 18. The Rangers' .750 winning percentage is tied with the other New York team, the Islanders (12.4) for the best among the League's 30 teams.

The Stars have had more success than anyone else on the road. They've won 17 of their 23 shootouts away from the American Airlines Center, a .739 winning percentage. Colorado's .722 mark (13 of 18) is next.

Practice makes perfect — There's something to be said for the theory that teams that take part in more shootouts do better in them. Of the seven teams that have taken part in 30 or fewer shootouts, only the Phoenix Coyotes (14-13) have a winning record. That group includes the two teams with the fewest victories, the Ottawa Senators (8-20) and Calgary Flames (8-16) — the Flames and Carolina Hurricanes (11-13) have taken part in the fewest shootouts (24) since the competition was adopted.

The Senators' .286 winning percentage is the lowest of any team, followed by Philadelphia (.300, 9-21) and the Flames (.333). The Flames have the fewest shootout wins at home (3 in 10 tries, .300), while the Senators and Flyers have won only three times each on the road — Philadelphia is 3-11 (.214) and Ottawa is 3-12 (.200).

Sharpshooters — NHL goalies can't be unhappy that former Minnesota defenseman Petteri Nummelin opted to go home to Finland after the 2007-08 season. Nummelin was devastating at shootouts, scoring on eight of his 10 attempts. His .800 percentage is the best of any player who's had 10 or more opportunities.

Among players currently in the NHL, the best is San Jose's Joe Pavelski, who's 11 for 16 (68.8 percent), followed by Colorado's Wojtek Wolski and the Sharks' Jeremy Roenick, both of whom are at 60 percent (Wolski is 12-for-20; Roenick is 6-for-10). Wolski leads all shooters this season with five goals in six tries (.833).

Among players with 25 or more shots, Atlanta's Eric Christensen is the best at 55.6 percent (15-for-27), barely edging Dallas' Brad Richards (55.2, 16-for-29).

Firing blanks — Some of the NHL's goal-scoring studs are duds when it comes to the shootout.

Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin, the League's leading scorer this season, is just 4-for-19 (21.1 percent) lifetime, although he's 1-for-2 this season. Teammate Sidney Crosby isn't much better, percentage-wise — he's 9-for-32, just 28.1 percent. That's about five percentage points lower than the League average. Crosby is 0-for-4 this season.

Reigning NHL scoring champ Alex Ovechkin is no shootout whiz, either. Ovechkin is 9-for-33, 27.3 percent, and has failed on both his tries this season.

And the all-time worst shooter among players with 10 or more opportunities? None other than Minnesota's Marian Gaborik. The Wild's all-time scoring leader and one of the most dangerous snipers in the NHL is 1-for-13 (7.7 percent). Also among the bottom 10: two-time 50-goal scorer Dany Heatley of Ottawa (3-18, 16.7 percent).


Stoppers — Not surprisingly, since their teams have played and won so many, New Jersey's Martin Brodeur and the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist have some of the best shootout stats among goaltenders.

Brodeur is tops among all goalies with 27 victories, two more than Lundqvist, who has made up ground this season by posting a League-leading seven wins in eight tries. Brodeur has also had a League-high 41 decisions (27-14), one more than Lundqvist (25-15).

Dallas' Marty Turco is the only other goaltender with more than 20 victories. His .677 winning percentage (21-10) is the best of any goaltender with 30 or more decisions.

Edmonton's Mathieu Garon had the best single-season mark among goaltenders, posting a perfect 10-0 mark in 2007-08. He won his first shootout this season, giving him an 11-game winning streak, the longest of any goaltender. Lundqvist has the longest streak this season with six consecutive wins.

Garon's .812 save percentage (56-for-69) is the best among goaltenders currently in the NHL, though he's only third all-time among players who've faced 35 or more attempts. Johan Holmqvist, formerly with Tampa Bay, is tops at .865 (32-for-37), followed by Marc Denis, now playing with AHL Hamilton (35-for-41). Lundqvist tops all goaltenders who've seen 10 or more shots this season with a save percentage of .875 (21 of 24).

Only one goaltender who's seen 35 or more shots has stopped fewer than half of them: Philadelphia's Martin Biron has faced 43 attempts and stopped just 20 of them, a .465 percentage.

Name game — The most successful name in shootouts? That's easy: Kozlov.

The unrelated Russians, Slava of the Thrashers and Viktor of the Capitals, are two of the most prolific and successful shootout scorers. Slava is tied with Tampa Bay's Jussi Jokinen for the all-time lead with 18 shootout goals, and is 18-for-33 (54.5 percent) Viktor is 16-for-34 (47.1 percent), though he's struggled over the past two seasons — going just 3-for-9 since the end of the 2006-07 season. His 16 goals are tied for second with Richards.

Slava Kozlov also shares the NHL mark with nine game-deciding goals among the 18 he's scored. Boston's Phil Kessel also has nine game-deciders — a total that's even more impressive when you consider he's scored just 10 times in shootouts.

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