Love 'em or hate 'em, shootouts have become an integral part of today's NHL.
Since its introduction in the 2005-06 season, the shootout has been required to decide the fate of more than 1,000 games; this season alone, 142 games (equivalent to 14 per cent) have gone the distance.
While the difference between winning and losing via penalty shots may only be a single point in the overall standings, those single points can add up - just ask the Toronto Maple Leafs or the New Jersey Devils. Without their nine shootout wins (9-4), the Leafs - who currently sit in third place in the Eastern Conference - would be out of the playoff picture; on the other hand, if the 11th-place Devils had won even a few of their shootouts to this point (0-8), they would be in a much better position to make the postseason.
When it comes to success in shootouts, it is easy - natural, even - to focus on the player with the fate of the game resting on the blade of his stick. To celebrate the shooters when they score and blame them when they miss. But as the old saying goes, It Takes Two To Tango - and the players protecting the nets are just as important as the players bearing down on them.
While some goalies have been called upon more than others (Antti Niemi of the San Jose Sharks has been the busiest shootout goalie in the NHL, facing 43 shooters in 12 games), each and every shootout is an opportunity to steal that sacred extra point and move their team up in the standings. And while some tenders crumble beneath the pressure, others rise to the challenge. Based on save percentage, here are the top 10 shootout goalies in the NHL this season.
Note: Although some goalies remain perfect in shootouts this season (Martin Jones of the Los Angeles Kings has stopped all 12 shots he's faced; Alex Stalock of the Sharks is 10/10; Thomas Greiss of the Phoenix Coyotes is 5/5; Dan Ellis of the Florida Panthers is 3/3; and Jeff Zatkoff of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Jason LaBarbera of the Chicago Blackhawks are 2/2), this list is restricted to those who have faced a minimum of 20 shooters.
8 T-9. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins: .714 save percentage
7 T-9. Jaroslav Halak, Washington Capitals: .714 save percentage
6 Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers: .727 save percentage
5 Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars: .741 save percentage
4 Reto Berra, Colorado Avalanche: .762 save percentage
3 Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins: .773 save percentage
2 Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning: .778 save percentage
1 Eddie Lack, Vancouver Canucks: .840 save percentage
While the 2013/14 season has been full of disappointment for Canucks fans, one bright spot has been the play of 26-year-old Lack - particularly in shootouts. With no NHL shootout experience entering this season, Lack has stepped in and stopped 21 of the 25 shots he's faced. Despite his success, however, Vancouver has struggled to score on its own attempts (8 goals on 50 shots, the second-worst shootout percentage in the NHL) resulting in a 3-3 record for Lack - and 5-7 for the Canucks overall.
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