As the AHL prepares to reduce the frequency of shootouts via 3v3 overtime, some have speculated that the NHL would be better off simply going back to allowing ties and axing the shootout altogether. However, before taking arms against a sea of lousy, no-good shootouts, it may be worth our while to remember just how much the skills competition has benefited the Dallas Stars over the past nine years. This is made easier by the fact that NHL.com has all the basic statistics for shootouts available in a nice, clean spreadsheet on their website. That is where these numbers are from, so if they're wrong, it is Gary Bettman's fault.
First, some context. The best shootout team of all time is no longer the Dallas Stars (although it was for quite a few years). Pittsburgh comes in first, not surprisingly, with a 61-33 record, and Colorado is right behind them with a 53-31 mark. Dallas is fourth at 57-41, which is right behind the notoriously lethal New York Islanders. One wonders if the Islanders might secede from the National Hockey League if the shootout were ever eliminated, but I digress. Let’s take a look at some of the ways the Stars have worked their magic after all those celibate overtimes. (Remember, a single season of shootouts is still a very small sample size, so don't worry that Jamie Benn went 1 for 9 last year in shootouts. He is still very good.)
Teams do not expect to win a lot of games when they are the visitors. You will often hear the phrase, "a good road game," especially if you are listening to your team’s broadcast during an away game. This refers to a mindset that a visiting club need only remain within striking distance during the first two periods. The thinking is that by not allowing the home team to establish too much of a lead which can be protected by exploiting things like the last change and ostensibly fresher skaters, an away team can always hope to "steal" a game in the waning minutes. In this vein, is common for coaches to say that if their club is able to pull one point out of a road game, they will be satisfied.
The Stars more than any other team have exemplified this adage and then some. While Dallas has fallen to a meager 25-25 in home ice shootouts (which might help to explain Stars fans’ apathy regarding them), they have taken games in opponents’ barns to the tune of a 32-16 record. This is not only the best road winning percentage of any away team since the implementation of the shootout, but it is also far better than the top home team’s mark (PIT) of 26-15. When reflecting that the home team is given the choice of whether to shoot first or second in these contests, one might wonder just how good of a job coaches are doing at employing this advantage. In fact, they are not doing a very good job at all. To wit:
Avg SO Win % (All Time)
Before continuing, it is worth noting that there is very little statistical advantage to shooting first or second in a shootout that goes only three rounds, although shooting first (which coaches usually do) does seem to increase the chances of winning shootouts of four to six rounds, so maybe the coaches are doing an okay job after all? It is puzzling that in a sport where the home team is given significant advantages in things like faceoffs and line changes, the home team's advantage in a shootout is probably the least helpful "edge" the league could have bestowed. The NHL might find it beneficial to find a slightly bigger nudge for the home side in shootouts if they really want fans to fall more in love with the competition itself. I can think of few ways to end a game with less satisfaction for the crowd than a shootout loss. (Maybe 3v3 overtime goals against will become one of those ways in 2015-2016, though. We can always hope.)
Anyway, how did the Stars manage to pile up such a gaudy shootout record on visiting ice? Somewhat surprisingly, scoring has not been driving it. The Stars’ road shooting percentage of 36.7% has been good, but it isn't quite at the 38% standard the top four teams have set. So the Stars are scoring more than average road teams, but not overwhelmingly so. Perhaps one reason for this is that the Stars have not done a great job of replacing the elite goal numbers of Jokinen (8th all time) Ribeiro (22nd) and Richards (12th—although I remember Richards’s success in the shootout coming primarily in Tampa). Seguin is (hopefully) a notable exception, as he scores at a ridiculous 44% clip. That number would be more impressive he hadn't scored only two goals in seven chances this year. What is even less impressive is that with two goals, Seguin was still all alone as the 2nd-highest goal scorer for Dallas last season, behind only Peverley, who scored three times in four shots. See for yourself. In summary: The Stars have not been scoring lots of shootout goals lately.
You probably knew this was coming: it’s the goalies. While league-average road SV% is .678, the Stars have set the pace for away teams with an outstanding .753 stoppage rate. In other words, Dallas goalies have historically stopped better than three of every four shots they have faced on the road. Incidentally, Dallas netminders have still been above-average at home as well, if slightly more mortal. They have put up a SV% of .689, good for 9th all time.
Kari Lehtonen has taken over for Turco more than adequately in this regard. Of all active goalies who have played in at least 20 shootouts, Kari sits in 5th place with a sparkling .725 career SV%. (The names ahead of him are quite interesting, actually. While Lundqvist is 3rd among active goalies, the other names up there are Fleury(1), Varlamov(2) and Niemi(4) – not exactly beloved goaltenders in their hometowns.) Company aside, it is an understatement to say that Lehtonen has been good in shootouts. Even though he went 3-4 in 2013-14, Lehtonen put up a .742 SV%, which is very encouraging. Much more encouraging than, say, the paltry 23.1 shooting percentage the Stars managed to support him with. Stars shooters last year essentially turned every goalie they faced into Marc-Andre Fleury, which in this case is not a good thing for Dallas.
What does this mean for the Stars this season? Well, assuming Kari continues to stonewall shooters, the Stars just need to start scoring goals at roughly a league-average (or better!) pace. And even though Dallas has been woeful in the last couple of years in the shooting part of this competition, there is hope that some of the new faces will contribute while some of the familiar ones continue to improve their craft. And by the way, remember those shootout goals numbers of former Stars? Well, Spezza is 20th all-time, and Hemsky is 28th. And if Jordie Benn can pitch in with some more of his black magic every once in a while, that will just be gravy.
One final note: Johan Hedberg was undefeated in shootouts during his time in Dallas. Never forget the Moose.
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Mike Valley gives a rundown of the Stars' top four goalies. Spoiler: Jack Campbell needs to stay healthy. [Stars]
Mike Heika also takes a look at the backup goalies for the Stars. I have concluded that the Stars are one step away from locking Lindback and Rynnas in a basement, snapping a pool cue in half and throwing it on the floor. Competition is a good thing. [DMN]
Thanks to user Epicrates who pointed out this informative (and honest) rundown of the Stars' draft picks in July. With videos galore! [Hockey's Future]
Mark Recchi’s time in Dallas as a Senior Advisor has come to an end; he has accepted a position with Pittsburgh as a player development coach. [ESPN]
Well, you all didn't buy enough Dallas Stars license plates, so the DMV is going to take them away, unless you buy more, and then I guess they won't take them away. I hope you're happy with yourselves. [DMN]
You know who is also really good at shootouts? T.J. Oshie. He is not as good at golf. This made me cringe. (How's that for click bait?) [Puck Daddy]
On the Forecheck teaches you how to hate the Metropolitan Division (as if we needed help). [OTF]
Fear the Fin doesn't want Joe Thornton to go. But their GM seems to think he needs to be replaced with ice girls. Is Joe Thornton really the "super cool co-worker" that the Sharks need to hang on to? Find out! [FTF]
And for everyone scared that Mike Babcock is getting senioritis in what could be his last year in Detroit, he responds with a quote that makes me wish Pierre McGuire had been holding the microphone at the time. [Detroit Free Press]
Finally, here is a top-10 list of shootouts, but just skip to 2:30 to get chills watching Jussi's 9-for-9 start to his rookie season.