Which teams (and players) are the best (and worst) at shootouts?

shootout1.jpgIt’s more than a mild understatement to say that shootouts aren’t popular with hardcore hockey fans. That being said, I think that we often take our distaste for the “glorified skills competition” too far.

At least in one area: analysis. Rarely do you hear a player touted for his penalty shot kills, unless it’s to be somewhat derisive (see: Jussi Jokinen before he broke through with the Carolina Hurricanes).

Yet, whatever you may say about shootouts themselves, a smart NHL team should try to wring out every point they can out of shootouts. So studying “what works” and “what doesn’t” actually makes plenty of sense, even if that can be a very inexact science itself.

John Kreiser of NHL.com put together an interesting compilation of stats regarding the last five years of the shootout. Let me point out some of the most interesting numbers.

First, a look at the most and least successful teams in the shootout.

Does practice make perfect? — The Rangers, Oilers and Boston Bruins have been the most active participants in shootouts. All have taken part in 65, with the Oilers winning 39, tying them with Dallas and New Jersey for the most in the shootout’s five-year history. The Rangers are next with 37 wins, while the Bruins have won 31 and own a shootout-record 34 losses.

At the other extreme, the Carolina Hurricanes have been involved in only 37 shootouts — and won just 17 of them. Calgary has taken part in only 38 and has just 14 victories, the fewest of any team.

He brings up the guys who were perfect in the shootout, with most of them only managing such a task by going 1-for-1. The exceptions were two borderline NHLers who went 3-for-3: Mike Santorelli and P.A. Parentau. Conversely, Chuck Kobasew, Paul Stastny and Taylor Pyatt are the most “snakebitten” shootout players.

shootout2.jpgFinally, here are a few details about the goalies who have had the most success. One might not surprise you, but the other could raise a few eyebrows.

Super stopper — Several goaltenders have had excellent seasons in shootouts, but it’s hard to envision anyone topping the performance Mathieu Garon turned in for Edmonton in 2007-08.

Garon was only 16-18 in games decided in regulation and lost his only overtime decision. But he was flawless — and nearly unbeatable — in shootouts. Garon was a perfect 10-0 for the Oilers, who set an NHL single-season record with 15 shootout wins (Phoenix came within one of that mark in 2009-10). Garon was 5-0 at Rexall Place and 5-0 on the road while allowing just two goals on 32 attempts, a .932 save percentage. He stopped all 14 attempts he faced in the five road wins.

[snip]

Another Brodeur best — Perhaps not surprisingly, the winningest goaltender in NHL history is also No. 1 in shootout victories. Martin Brodeur tops all goaltenders with 34 wins in the shootout, four more than Atlantic Division rival Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers. Brodeur is an equal-opportunity winner — he has 17 shootout wins at home and 17 on the road.

Brodeur took part in 10 shootouts last season, moving him back in front of Lundqvist for the most shootouts by a goaltender, with 52. Lundqvist (30-21 lifetime) is next with 51; Marty Turco, who recently signed with Chicago after spending his career with Dallas, is third with 50.

Perhaps it makes a bit of sense that Brodeur and Turco are strong in the skills competition since their styles are a little more based on athleticism and unpredictability.

You have to wonder if teams like the Calgary Flames might want to put a little more emphasis on the shootout going forward. Considering that they fell just short of the playoffs last year, getting those “charity points” could mean a lot. Sadly enough, they could even make or break the Sutter brothers.

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    Capitals tie series with Blue Jackets

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    In Game 4, the Washington Capitals showed their heart by not working overtime.

    The Capitals dropped both of their home games to start their first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, opening the floodgates for people to dust off their favorite, cruel jokes about this team. They’ll return home with those one-liners drying up, though.

    After falling behind 2-0 in the series, the Capitals flipped the script to tie it up 2-2 after beating the Blue Jackets both times in Columbus. The symmetry wasn’t complete, however; while Washington continued the series trend of overtime nail-biters by winning beyond regulation in Game 3, they made no mistake about winning Game 4 by a score of 4-1.

    [NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

    This wasn’t a case where the Bruins got the bounces and the finishes to win. The Capitals have shown signs of dominance even in defeats during this series, but they really smothered the Blue Jackets in Game 4.

    The Capitals generated a 33-24 shots on goal edge, won about two-thirds of the faceoffs, and generally carried the play by every metric.

    Tom Wilson making it 1-0 was valuable, and jokes about blown 2-0 leads aside, T.J. Oshie‘s eventual game-winner was important during the second period. Alex Ovechkin‘s goal from his opposite office widened the gap too much for an overmatched Blue Jackets team, even with Boone Jenner scoring and giving Columbus a brief boost.

    With a goal and an assist in Game 4, this is yet another reminder that Ovechkin is a playoff performer, even if his team isn’t always there with him. After Washington went down 2-0 against Columbus, Ovechkin said “it’s going to be fun when we bounce back and tie the series,” and that’s exactly the situation Washington is in after … whatever the opposite of “holding serve” is.

    Of course, people will quickly forget this triumph-within-the-series if the Capitals ultimately bow out of the first round, anyway.

    The Caps must feel really good about their collective play as they aim to become the first team to win at home in this series in Game 5. Their power play has been productive, playing tight defense, getting scoring from Ovechkin/others, and Braden Holtby looks poised in regaining his usual spot in net. It’s the sort of stretch that changes the Capitals’ narrative from “here we go again” to “could this be the year we finally make a run?”

    With this series now essentially becoming a best two-out-of-three clash, the disposition could easily go from sunny back to gloomy, but give this beleaguered group credit for keeping cool heads and making this anyone’s game once again.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Bruins push Leafs to brink

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    The Boston Bruins found themselves on the wrong end of plenty of stats in Game 4, but even with Patrice Bergeron on the shelf, they won 3-1 to push the Toronto Maple Leafs to the brink of elimination.

    Boston took a 3-1 series lead with tonight’s win despite Toronto generating a 32-21 shots on goal advantage, hogging the puck, and holding home-ice advantage.

    [NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

    Goaltending was one big area of advantage for the Bruins. Tuukka Rask was forced to make some tough saves as Mitch Marner and other Leafs players created plenty of chances. One cannot help but wonder if fatigue is a bit of a factor for workhorse Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen, meanwhile, as he’d likely love to have this Torey Krug goal back:

    That early 1-0 lead provided a cushion for the Bruins to adjust to life without Bergeron (again), although Tomas Plekanec did tie things up. Ultimately, the Bruins were able to cash in on two 2-on-1 rushes, with Brad Marchand burying a tremendous setup by David Pastrnak for the game-winner and Jake DeBrusk finding the net after a great feed by David Krejci (who has absorbed some criticism for his play lately).

    The two goals were remarkably similar in exhibiting the Bruins’ smarts and finish, along with the Maple Leafs lacking in a few areas on defense, as Nikita Zaitsev and Roman Polak were exposed (among others). Here’s that Marchang GWG:

    Game 5 shifts back to Boston on Saturday. You can watch that game on CNBC, with puck drop slated for 8 p.m. ET.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Bruins without Bergeron vs. Leafs in Game 4

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    The Boston Bruins rolled through much of the regular season despite injuries, even to key players like Patrice Bergeron. The fact that they’re unfortunately experienced playing without Bergeron is probably the only silver lining regarding his late scratch heading into Game 4.

    The Bruins announced that Bergeron is day-to-day with what they’re deeming an upper-body injury, so Riley Nash slips into Bergeron’s spot between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.

    [NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

    This stands as an obvious opportunity for Auston Matthews to roam more freely against the Bruins and a chance for the Maple Leafs to tie this series in front of their home fans.

    NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty makes a good point that Bergeron missing Game 4 is especially troubling since the Bruins played Game 3 on Monday, gaining an extra off day between contests.

    Bergeron generated five assists through the first three games of this series, including four helpers in Game 2. He was limited to 64 regular-season games in 2017-18, falling just short of a point-per-game with 63. Naturally, his all-around game goes beyond goals and assists, so this hurts badly for the Bruins, whether they had some experience playing without him or not.

    As of this writing, the two teams are tied up 1-1. Click here for the livestream link.

    This news comes not that long after news surfaced that Bergeron’s once again been named a finalist for the Selke.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Doughty, Hedman, Subban are 2018 Norris Trophy finalists

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    Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings, Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning and P.K. Subban of the Nashville Predators have been named finalists for the 2018 Norris Trophy. The award, voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Assocation, is given “to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position,” will be handed out during the NHL Awards show June 20 in Las Vegas.

    This is the fourth time Doughty has been name a finalist. He won the award in 2016 after finishing second the year before. Hedman finished third in the voting last season and this is the second time he’s finished in the top three. Subban, like Doughty, has a Norris Trophy on his resume (2013). This is the third time he’s been up for the award.

    [NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

    The Case for Drew Doughty: The Kings blue liner finished sixth in scoring among defensemen with 60 points, which included 10 goals. He also led all NHL players in total ice time with 2,200:31, finishing with an average of 26:50 per game. He had a strong possession game with a 53 percent Corsi and a 4.39 Relative Corsi, meaning LA fired nearly five shots more per 60 minutes when Doughty was on the ice.

    “I’m not starting the season, thinking ‘oh I got to get the most points I can, so I can win the Norris,’” he told The Athletic last month. “I’m starting the season, thinking, ‘I’ve got to get my defensive game even better, because that’s where my team needs me the most – to lead the charge in that area. It’s a team game and it’s about winning championships.”

    The Case for Victor Hedman: Hedman finished tied for first among defensemen in goals scored with 17 and finished fourth in points with 63. He set a career high in ice time with 1,990:30 total minutes, averaging 25:51 per night. The possession stats for the Lightning defenseman were solid as well, with a 52 percent Corsi and a 0.38 Relative Corsi.

    “I’m fortunate to be on an unbelievable team that helped me out through my first decade in the league, to help me grow into the player I want to be,” he told Sports Illustrated in February. “Still got stuff to work on and get better at, but obviously winning the Norris would be something that I want to do. I want to be at the top of my game. I want to play my best every night.”

    The Case for P.K. Subban: Subban was right behind Hedman in goals scored (16) and right behind Doughty in total points (59). He logged 1,977:24 of ice time, playing in all 82 games for the Predators this season. As you’d expect from a Norris finalist, his possession stats were good, as he finished with a 52 percent Corsi and a 0.3 Relative Corsi.

    Earlier this season, Subban told the Tennessean he felt his defensive game was overlooked. “The offensive part of my game has always been there,” he said. “The defensive part has always been there as well, but for whatever reason, I don’t seem to get the credit for what I do in my (defensive) zone and how I contribute defensively for our hockey club.”

    2018 NHL Award finalists
    Lady Byng (Friday)
    Selke Trophy
    Vezina Trophy

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.