Skip to content
Our Archives
Link copied to clipboard

NHL players agree: Shootouts look like a keeper

MONTREAL - Zach Parise didn't have to think long to come up with the example of when there is too much on the line in a single game to want it to go to a shootout.

MONTREAL - Zach Parise didn't have to think long to come up with the example of when there is too much on the line in a single game to want it to go to a shootout.

"It was the last game of the season last year," the Devils forward said. "We were playing the Rangers and the winner of the game was going into the playoffs as the higher seed. It was tough. No one wanted a shootout."

But they got one.

Luckily for Parise, the Devils won the game and home-ice advantage when he and Patrik Elias scored. Actually, he was being a bit dramatic: The Devils accomplished that with the single point they earned with the overtime tie, but Parise thought it was an important enough game to use as an example.

Having said all that, Parise and most of his fellow All-Stars wouldn't change the shootout rule even if they had the chance.

In a random sampling of players from both the Western and Eastern All-Star teams, the players said that they understood the reason for the gimmick and think it's good for the game.

"I think the shootout now is part of the game," said Anaheim goaltender Jean-Sebastian Giguere. "It's an exciting part of the game and people seem to like it. In the past you see people leave and now you know they want to see the shootout and they want to stay. I'm not the best at it. But I think it's better that way."

The shootout was brought into the game at the end of the 2004-05 NHL lockout. Where previously a game that ended in a tie after a 5-minute overtime earned each team one point, now shooters would face goalies one-on-one in a penalty shot format and the winning team got an extra point.

Since it's inception with the 2005-06 season, 557 games have been decided in shootouts. Some teams seem to run into them more; the Rangers have been in 52 with 32 wins, followed by New Jersey, 49, 31 wins, while Carolina has had the fewest, 24, with 11 wins.

And some teams are awful at it. The Ottawa Senators have only won eight times in 29 tries and the Flyers are 27th overall with 34 attempts and only 11 wins.

There is no question that the fans love the shootout. From the minute the Zambonis come onto the ice to clear paths to the nets, the fans are out of their seats and cheering.

Players have improved at them, and every year they get more inventive. Coaches, and hockey purists, however, hate the shootout.

Hockey is a team game, and to play 60 minutes plus an overtime period and come up even and then have it decided on individual talent and luck is contrary to how the game is intended.

But hockey is also a "niche" sport and anything to make it more popular and attractive to fans is viewed as the most important factor in the decision to keep the shootout.

Dallas superstar Mike Modano hated the idea at first and he still has problems liking it , but he understands.

"It's tough because it's hard to have a game end like that because it's such a team sport and then it becomes such an individual sport at the end," he said. "That's what's hard. Some of the players, for the promotion of the game and for the fans, they look forward to that one-on-one situation. Unfortunately when it determines the outcome of a game, it's tough to do that. You sit there and you kind of watch it unravel and you kind of feel you deserve a better fate.

"But with the way the game is, it's hard to get people in the stands, so keep it for now. At those points when the shootout does come, no one is sitting in their seats, they're all standing up to see how it finishes out and until they sit down through the shootout, there's no need to get rid of it."

Where it really becomes hard is when lost points cost teams playoff spots. Getting into the playoffs for the lower-seeded teams in both conferences comes down to a single point sometimes.

Scott Niedermayer has no sympathy for those teams, however.

"It could be hard, but that's the way it is. If you put yourself in a situation where you're battling for a playoff spot in the end, I think that's your own fault," he said. "For [Anaheim] we had a pretty slow start and we're trying to battle back and get in the playoff picture. It's not easy but that's the way it is. We put ourselves in that hole and we're the only ones that can get ourselves out of it."

Some of the younger players love the shootout and look forward to it.

"I think it's pretty cool," said Chicago's Patrick Kane. "Sometimes you kind of feel cheated after you lose in a shootout in a really tight game but at the same time, it's pretty important for the fans to see. Even for myself, when it's in overtime you want to see it go to a shootout.

"It's fun to watch some of the things players will try. I think it's pretty cool."

But there are some players who disagree, including the Flyers' Jeff Carter.

"I think it's exciting for the fans, but as players I think we would rather keep playing it out with a longer overtime and then just have it end in a tie," Carter said. "I'd like to just play it out. It kind of stinks to have it end in a shootout from a player's standpoint."

Parise is one of those players who likes the shootout, but he would also like an extended overtime.

"I think it's better than ending a game in a tie," he said. "I would like to see a 10-minute overtime. I think overtime is great. Four-on-four is great, there are a lot of scoring chances. But I like it. I think the shootout is fun for the fans."

If there is a group of players that have a right to especially hate the shootout, it's the goaltenders. While skaters get one chance and then skate off, the goalies are out there for all of it.

"But the fans like it so it has a purpose," said Boston's Tim Thomas. "I think they become too important, especially towards the end of the year when it determines who makes the playoffs, but generally it's more weighted towards luck than it is to a team game.

"I'd maybe do it differently. I'd try to find a way to make the point differential different. A win in overtime is worth more points than a win in a shootout or something to that effect.

"It's hard on players and teams. If you win you feel probably better than you should, and if you lose you probably feel way worse than you should as a team.

"But really, you've played a tie game. Maybe you can come back from 3-1 in the third period and tie it up and play a great overtime and then lose in the shoootout after all of your great effort was to no avail. You don't look at it as a tie anymore and it does take the team out of team." *