In this shortened season there will be increased pressure for all teams to earn enough points to have the right to play for Lord Stanley’s Cup. Every game will be important and that means, of course, great hockey for us fans. It also means there could be more games going into overtime as opposed to a full 82 game season. Often a 5 minute overtime is not enough to determine which team earns the extra point. Thus, maybe more than ever before, NHL fans will be on the edge of their seats in anticipation of the chance for their team to earn an extra point via the shootout.
We can expect a tight race to make the playoffs for each conference. Maybe even the kind of suspense that occurred when the Flyers made the postseason on the last day of the playoffs against the Rangers in 2010. The difference between the chance to challenge for Lord Stanley’s Cup and golf season might just be the one point earned in a shootout.
The league has averaged 13.2% of all games played ending in a shootout since it’s inception in 2005. There has been a high of 14.96% in 2009-10 and a low of 11.79% in the 2005-6. This year so far the number of games ending in a shootout is 22 out of 168 games which is basically the league average at 13.1%. Will this continue par for the course, or as points become that much more difficult to get will teams play for the 3 point game?
Interestingly though, the Western Conference has a philosophy regarding gaining the charity point different from the Eastern Conference. The West has a conservative point assurance over keeping their foes from gaining anything in the standings. Out of the 22 shootouts this season thus far, 17 of them have been played in the West compared to only 5 in the Eastern Conference. Anaheim, San Jose, Chicago, Vancouver, and Nashville have all played at least 3 shootouts this season while only Boston in the East has played 2.
Is there really a different strategy in the West over the East? Is it a coaching strategy with an emphasis on playing low scoring tight defensive battles? Or is there more parity among the teams in the West compared to the East?
Last night’s high scoring 5-5 tie defied the low scoring defensive strategy which was settled by an entertaining shootout as the Ducks changed the Blue’s momentum mid shootout for a 6-5 victory. For those of you who might have missed it here is the video as it was a trial of talented youth versus experienced NHL athletes. Both teams really had a shot at winning the extra point and gave it their best efforts.
Die hard hockey fans are pretty much split on whether this practice is a welcome entertaining addition to their beloved sport, or a mere gimmick and a travesty in which to decide hockey games. But hey, that doesn’t really matter. A discussion of whether or not to modify or eliminate the shoot out did not happen in the CBA discussions. In addition, no changes were made to change the scoring system for a 3 point win earned in regulation. Both the NHL and NHLPA want games to end in a timely manner whether it be for television or a plane to catch. They also like the climatic excitement it brings for the fans at the game as they stand on their feet cheering their favorite players exhibiting their individual talent. With today’s athletes becoming more and more skillful and the game becoming more and more competitive, I think we will see more entertaining shootouts like the one played by the Ducks and the Blues.
Although the numbers seem to be status quo for the number of shootouts played thus far this year with those of the past I think that more teams in the East will adopt the West’s philosophy and play to earn the extra point in OT or the shootout.
So hold tightly onto your beer and popcorn folks, shootouts are here to stay and we could be entertained by more of them for the remainder of this short season.