Much to the chagrin of hockey purists, the shootout was introduced to the NHL in the 2005-2006 season. Every time overtime would expire and it was time for the coaches to pick their shooters, you could see the cringe on Pat Quinn’s face, and he wasn’t the only coach he felt that way. But from a fan’s perspective, the shootout is an extremely popular concept, and why wouldn’t it be? People who pay top dollar to attend a hockey game, and up to $11 for a can of beer, certainly want to see the contest resolved rather than end in a crummy draw. For example, if you go to an action movie starring Sylvester Stallone and he’s at a standoff with a foe, it would be anticlimactic for them to just put the guns away and say: “Let’s call it a draw!”. It’s also a chance for the fans to see some skill and creativity from the players that they wouldn’t otherwise see in a regular game. In the shootouts short lifespan in the NHL, the innovations we have seen have been simply incredible.
The shootout is also a popular concept amongst most of the players as well. They’re simply not interested in extending the overtime period in a further attempt to resolve the game as they feel they’ve played enough hockey already. The shootout allows for other players the opportunity to shine rather than the usual suspects. When looking at the points leader board, we always see guys like Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos. But the same can’t be said for total shootout goals tallied, as lesser known players have stepped up to the forefront and have become shootout specialists. Lets have a look at players with the most shootout goals! If there is a tie in any instance, the player with the better success rate will be ranked ahead.
10. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings (29 goals in 72 attempts)
Brad Richards and Rick Nash are tied with Kopitar at 29 goals, but Kopitar makes the list over the other two because his success rate is better as he capitalizes on 40.3% of his attempts. It’s hard to believe that Benoit Pouliot, Gilbert Brule, Jack Skille and Brian Lee were all selected before Kopitar in the 2005 draft. He’s a tough shooter to read as a goalie because he has a wide variety of tricks and doesn’t rely on one “go to” move. In this instance, he pulls the same move Peter Forsberg did in the 1994 Olympics. A move that Jussi Jokinen later perfected (we’ll get to him in a bit).
9. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks (30 goals in 77 attempts)
It only makes sense that Patrick Kane cracks the top 10. He has the best stick handling in the game, only to be disputed by Pavel Datsyuk. The way Kane approaches most of his attempts is quite unique. He breaks in really quickly but by the time he gets to around the hash marks, he relents (almost to a stand still) and slowly glides in the rest of the way while he quickly stick handles. It’s quite the transition, as his skating slows down, his stick handling picks up speed. This whole process just leaves the goalies dizzy and confused.
8. Frans Nielsen, New York Islanders, (30 goals in 55 attempts)
Frans Nielsen just might be the premiere shootout specialist of the league. He may not have as many goals as some people on this list as he ranks 8th, but it’s important to consider his success rate. In only 55 attempts, he’s converted 30 times. He puts the puck in the back of the net 54.5% of the time his coach gives him the nod. It’s an incredible feat to convert on well over half your attempts as goaltenders generally have the edge in the showdown.
7. Jussi Jokinen, Pittsburgh Penguins (31 goals in 73 attempts)
At the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics, Peter Forsberg won the gold for Sweden when he executed a cheeky shootout move against Canadian goalie Corey Hirsch. We can’t take anything away from Forsberg, he surprised the heck out of Hirsch and he had the intestinal fortitude to try such a bold move in the gold medal game at the Olympics. But there was some shock value to this move, nobody really saw it coming, whereas Jokinen mastered this move and makes it look routine. The goalies knew it was coming and still couldn’t do anything about it.
6. Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild (34 goals in 81 attempts)
Mikko and his brother Saku are both quite good when it comes to shootouts. There’s one particular move that they both love to use where they will fake going backhand and then shift to the forehand at the last possible second. The problem is, that’s where it ends with Saku. He essentially uses that move every single time. Mikko has a mixed bag of tricks, as sometimes he will actually go backhand instead of faking it. There are also other instances where he simply unleashes a quick snap shot and makes the goalie look foolish. At 81 attempts, it’s clear the Wild love to lean on their captain in the shootout.
5. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks (34 goals in 68 attempts)
For many Canadians, their favorite shootout moment is the masterful performance Jonathan Toews put on at the 2007 Wold Junior Hockey Championship in Leksand, Sweden. He had 3 attempts, and pumped in 3 goals, using 3 different moves to boot. What flies under the radar is the fact that he has continued his shootout dominance in his NHL career, boasting a 50% success rate. The irony is, that in the world juniors he used 3 different moves while in his NHL attempts, he essentially does the same thing every time. He breaks in with a burst of speed and snaps it home.
T3. Radim Vrbata, Phoenix Coyotes (35 goals in 79 attempts)
The well travelled Vrbata has at times battled inconsistency in his career, but not when it comes to the shootout. Regardless of the jersey he’s wearing, his team’s consistently look to him when it’s shootout time. One of the key’s to Vrbata’s success is his patience. He is very proficient at outwaiting the goalies and making them bite first and then sliding it in on the backhand. As a goalie, he’s extremely frustrating to deal with because even if you manage to outwait him and force him to make the first move, he somehow manages to tuck it in on backhand anyways.
T3. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings, (35 goals in 79 attempts)
Even if you’re not a hockey fan, you can appreciate Pavel Datsyuk’s shootout attempts because it’s sheer wizardry. Some of the things he does, don’t even seem real. He’s made a habit of scoring highlight reel shootout goals but is totally bashful about it, and makes sure not to “rub it in” with crazy celebrations. There’s a reason why Datsyuk won the Lady Byng Trophy three seasons in a row. His most famous victim is goaltender Anti Niemi of the Chicago Blackhawks. Words just don’t do it justice, see it for yourself!
2. Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild (36 goals in 80 attempts)
It makes sense for Minnesota to coast during the five minute overtime period, and simply preserve the tie because they have two of the leagues finest shootout specialists at their disposal. Zach Parise displays the uncanny ability to go to his backhand and roof the puck from ridiculous angles, which makes it near impossible for the goalie to stop as he performs his slide to block off the lower portion of the net. In this particular instance, he fakes to his left and Jonathan Quick bites, and he calmly places it in the top portion of the net, making one of the best goaltenders in the league look like an absolute amateur.
1. Brad Boyes, Florida Panthers (37 goals in 79 attempts)
Brad Boyes is #1 on the list, which is surprising isn’t it? Yours truly had the same reaction. In the past six seasons, the journeyman has not put up great numbers but is certainly a shootout specialist. He’s found the back of the net 37 times in his 79 attempts, for a 46.8% success rate, which is a spectacular stat for such an average player. It’s so entertaining to watch Boyes in a shootout because you never know what he’s going to do, and truthfully, he doesn’t even know what he’s going to do as he’s been involved in some crazy ones. How can a goalie get a read on what he’s going to do when he doesn’t even know? From healthy scratch, to hero, as the commentator so eloquently puts it!