Blog Entry

Taking a look at Colorado's shootout success

Posted on: January 4, 2012 5:55 pm
Edited on: January 4, 2012 6:10 pm
DucheneBy: Adam Gretz

Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at the shootout success of the Colorado Avalanche and what it might mean for them going forward.

Thanks to a recent hot streak that's seen the team win nine of its past 11 games the Colorado Avalanche entered Wednesday in what would be the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Three of those recent wins have come by way of the shootout, and for the season, Colorado has been the best team in the league in the tie-breaking skills competition, posting a perfect 7-0 record, after an impressive 6-1 performance a season ago.

They're relying heavily on the shootout, and that may not be a good thing for the team going forward.

Their 2010-11 performance in the shootout earned them absolutely nothing as they failed to qualify for the playoffs and finished with one of the worst records in the NHL. This season, for the short-term anyway, it's at least helping to keep them competitive for a while, and as one of only two teams in the league to still be perfect in the shootout (the other is Detroit -- which has only been involved in one shootout this season) those seven extra points have certainly helped.

For Colorado, its shootout success this season has a lot to do with goaltender Semyon Varlamov. During actual game play he's been terrible and currently owns a .900 save percentage, well below the league average. In shootouts, however, he's actually been one of the best goalies in the league and has stopped 17 of the 19 shots he's faced, winning every shootout he's been involved in. His individual performance in this area has improved in each of the past three seasons, and for his career owns one of the best all-time shootout save percentages in league shootout history (brief as it may be).

Meanwhile, forwards like Milan Hejduk, the currently injured Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly have been their most called upon skaters and have managed to convert on 10 of their 17 chances, including five of the seven game-deciding goals.

Of course, the shootout still has its share of critics around the league, mainly among hockey purists, and the NHL has even taken steps to minimize the impact it has at the end of the season, as those wins no longer count when it comes to breaking ties for playoff spots. 

It's also worth pointing out that teams that rely heavily on the shootout during the regular season don't have much success in the postseason, for obvious reasons.

First, if your team is taking part in a lot of shootouts it probably means they're not pulling away from the opposition and find themselves in a lot of close games that can be decided with one bounce. And, even more importantly, there's no shootout in the playoffs, which means those teams will then have to rely on actual 5-on-5 hockey to win, and if they were successful in that area, they wouldn't have had to rely on so many shootouts over the course of the regular season.

Since the NHL added the shootout coming out of the lockout for the 2005-06 season, the average NHL team takes part in 10-12 shootouts per year, usually winning somewhere around five or six of them per season. Only once did the NHL average number of shootout wins drop below five in a season (4.76 per team in '05-06) and only once did it go above 6 (6.1 during the '09-10 season).

The Avalanche already have seven this season, and with half of the season still to go, it's a good bet they're probably going to win a few more.

How have teams that relied on shootout success done in the playoffs? Not well. Not well at all. Over the past six seasons 13 teams have won at least 10 shootouts in a single season, and here's what they did in the playoffs, assuming they qualified:

Teams with 10-or-more shootout wins in a season
Team Year Shootout Wins Playoff Success
Edmonton Oilers 2007-08 15 Did Not Qualify
Phoenix Coyotes 2009-10 14 Lost In First Round
Dallas Stars 2005-06 12 Lost In First Round
Los Angeles Kings 2010-11 10 Lost In First Round
Pittsburgh Penguins 2010-11 10 Lost In First Round
Los Angeles Kings 2009-10 10 Did Not Qualify
Boston Bruins 2009-10 10 Lost In Second Round
New York Rangers 2008-09 10 Lost In Second Round
New Jersey Devils 2006-07 10 Lost In Second Round
Pittsburgh Penguins 2006-07 10 Lost In First Round
Buffalo Sabres 2006-07 10 Lost In Conference Finals
Minnesota Wild 2006-07 10 Lost In First Round
New York Rangers 2006-07 10 Lost In Second Round

Only five made it past the first round of the playoffs, while only Buffalo during the 2006-07 season went as far as the Conference Finals.

Whether or not the Avalanche have to worry about that at the end of the season remains to be seen at this point. As a team they've been getting crushed during 5-on-5 play, mainly due to the struggles of Varlamov when he's not taking part in a shootout.

Right now they're relying almost exclusively on their power play (which is quite good) and their ability to scratch out extra points in a skills competition. How long can that reasonably be expected to continue?

Photo: Getty Images

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Since: Jul 1, 2010
Posted on: January 5, 2012 11:12 pm

Taking a look at Colorado's shootout success

Nice breakdown by Gretz.   Interesting to see how the dominant shootout winners have finished the years.

Since: May 8, 2007
Posted on: January 5, 2012 1:00 pm

Taking a look at Colorado's shootout success

What I find interesting and not mentioned is the fact that if tied in points at the end of the season, these shootout wins actually hurt the team.  Correct me if I'm wrong but if 2 teams tie for the 8th and final spot and have the same number of wins, the next tiebreaker is higher number of regulation wins.  Yes, the Avs are 7-0, but this may come back to haunt them in April.

Since: Aug 22, 2007
Posted on: January 5, 2012 12:54 pm

Taking a look at Colorado's shootout success

Not sure why the NHL has avoided doing so but they've already destroyed tradition by eliminating ties for the fake fans that needed an outcome to be lured into the NHL.  Why not completely blow it up and go to the 3-2-1 point system.  3 for a reg win, 2 for an OT win and 1 for a shootout win.  This is the only way you get results.  The OT was fun for awhile there prior to the shootout but now that teams know the shootout is coming, sometimes the OT's are just a formality to get to that point.  Best game I ever saw was an OT thriller in Buffalo against the Ducks back when Selanne and Kariya were there still and there was no shootout but it was just as the 4 on 4 took way...very entertaining game and even more entertaining OT because the teams were trying to score.  Until there is incentive to win sooner than later, the results will be the same

Since: Oct 8, 2009
Posted on: January 5, 2012 10:57 am

Taking a look at Colorado's shootout success

So basically the point of this article is that the Avs shouldn't expect to win the Cup this season... Was that a realistic expectation for this team anyway? They missed the playoffs last season as I recall. A cup win for Colorado this season would be decidedly unexpected. But I don't see it as impossible.

This argument that if your team is in a lot of close games, they won't be good come playoff time? Look at the 2005-06 Oilers. That team made the playoffs just barely with 26 out of their 82 games decided in OT or shootout. They proceded all the way to game 7 of the finals. Just get to the playoffs and anything can happen. Totally flawed arguments in this article.

Since: Apr 7, 2011
Posted on: January 5, 2012 10:54 am

Taking a look at Colorado's shootout success

I also would love to see them eliminate the point for losing, as well as dump the shootout all together. I personally just don't think that is going to happen.

Since: Jan 29, 2007
Posted on: January 5, 2012 10:18 am

Taking a look at Colorado's shootout success

Just do away with points for OT and SO loses. Why be rewarded for "Almost" winning? No points for OT and SO loses, only one point for OT and SO wins; learn to win in regulation!!

Since: Oct 25, 2007
Posted on: January 5, 2012 1:47 am

Taking a look at Colorado's shootout success

The mention was so brief I almost missed it, but the point about playoff tie-breakers is incredibly important. Especially with a team like Colorado, probably destined to be one of many teams fighting for a 4-8 seed. The first obvious tie breaker is points, but at the end there's always a bunch of teams jumbled. Then it's wins - excluding SO wins. 

It's not a perfect comparison since LA has played one more game at this point, but LA is 8 and Colorado is 9 currently. They have the same points and LA has 19 wins to Colorado's 22. Except omitting SO wins, LA gets the edge 16-15. It makes a huge difference - and even more considering how many they might end up having when the season is over. 

Since: Dec 14, 2011
Posted on: January 5, 2012 1:25 am
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: Apr 6, 2007
Posted on: January 5, 2012 1:08 am

Taking a look at Colorado's shootout success

3 Point wins are retarded.  Its the reason soccer scoring is terrible.  Winning 1 game and losing 2 is the same as drawing all 3.  Tell me how that makes sense?

Should get rid of shootounts completey.  They aren't used in the post-season and its not an accurate representation of the better team.  It pins 1 team against another in 2 categories...goaltending and break-away scoring.  It doesn't at all benefit a team that is good on defense, is physical (in particular in front of the net with rebounds), fast at skating, setting up screens, etc.  In addition, it doesn't give an accurate grid for goaltending because the goalie doesn't have to worry about rebounds bouncing all over the place.

I can't stand that one team gets extra points in the standings for being good at 2 very minute phases of the game. 

Since: Mar 2, 2008
Posted on: January 4, 2012 11:44 pm

Taking a look at Colorado's shootout success

Nope.  The wise thing to do is, simply eliminate that free point for getting your team past regulation.  The NHL is currently a wannabe NBA/MLB, which for some reason does not have the will to simply eliminate the point.  If you want to be a wannabe win/loss league you eliminate that point.

The standings are an inaccurate joke at the end of the day, because it is not real.  If you want a winner every game, eliminate that cheap freebie point.  It should not exist as is.

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