Shootouts Will Have a Big Impact on NHL Playoff Picture in Shortened 2013 Season

Nicholas GossCorrespondent IJanuary 30, 2013

Jan 21, 2013; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins center Tyler Seguin (19) scores a goal during the shootout against Winnipeg Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec (31) at TD Banknorth Garden.  The Boston Bruins won 2-1.   Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The shootout is one part of the NHL that creates a lot of passionate debates, but whether or not you think it should decide regular season games after overtime, there's no question that shootouts will have a big impact on the playoff picture during this shortened 48-game NHL season.

With every single point in the standings being massively important during a shortened season, teams who excel in the shootout will have a huge advantage over teams that don't have a lot of highly skilled forwards or goaltenders who thrive in one-on-one situations.

There were five teams during the 2011-12 season who lost in overtime or in a shootout 15 total times or more. Many of the points these teams lost after regulation were because of their inability to win shootouts.

For example, the Calgary Flames were 3-9 in shootouts last season, and only missed the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference by five points.

The Flames currently have a three-year playoff drought, and losing 41 of the team's 65 shootouts played since the 2005 lockout have certainly contributed to their lack of playoff appearances in recent seasons.

New York Rangers fans know very well how important shootouts can be. The Blueshirts missed the playoffs during the 2009-10 season because they weren't able to defeat the Philadelphia Fyers in a shootout in the final game of the season.

So far in 2013, 11 of the 87 games (12.64 percent) that have been played ended in shootouts.

There are two teams, the Nashville Predators and Edmonton Oilers, that have already lost multiple shootouts. The Predators are 0-3 and the Oilers are 1-2. These lost points could become a big deal late in the season since both the Predators and Oilers will likely contend for a playoff spot in the West.

There are several goaltenders on playoff contenders who have not performed well in shootouts during their careers, and unless they improve, their teams could lose crucial points in the playoff race.

Player Team W/L SV%
Miikka Kiprusoff CGY 23-36 .607
Mike Smith PHO 13-18 .650
Niklas Backstrom MIN 17-30 .571
Ilya Bryzgalov PHI 22-27 .635
Cam Ward CAR 11-22 .616

On the other hand, there are quite a few playoff contenders that will greatly benefit from having goaltenders who regularly shine in shootouts.

Player Team W/L SV%
Kari Lehtonen DAL 31-18 .723
Ryan Miller BUF 36-24 .699
Jimmy Howard DET 16-11 .765
Jonathan Quick LAK 29-15 .717
Henrik Lundqvist NYR 41-27 .763
Martin Brodeur NJD 42-21 .719
Marc-Andre Fleury PIT 37-17 .756

Since it's very likely that the final playoff spots in each conference will be decided by just a few points, due to the shortened schedule, shootout success could be the difference between making the postseason (and the extra revenue that comes with it) and having to start summer early for several teams.

For teams that don't have a lot of players who excel in shootouts, there will be an extra emphasis on trying to win in overtime to avoid a shootout. This could create some really exciting overtime periods this season.

A lot of hockey fans don't like the shootout, but the fact remains that it is an important part of the playoff race, especially in a shortened season when there aren't a lot of games to pick up points from.

Shootout failures will be magnified even more in 2013, and may be a primary reason why a few teams fail to earn a playoff spot.