Ranking Every 2014 Olympic Hockey Team's Shootout Ability

Rob VollmanContributor IJanuary 30, 2014

Ranking Every 2014 Olympic Hockey Team's Shootout Ability

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    Which team would be at the greatest advantage if one of the upcoming Olympics games goes to a shootout? Every nation is prepared with its own masters of this skills competition, but some teams have more weapons than others. It's a tight pack, but there are least a couple of teams with a definite advantage.

    The shootout has already made its presence felt several times throughout history. For example, Sweden bested Canada in the 1994 gold-medal game, and then Dominik Hasek and the Czech Republic shocked Wayne Gretzky's dream team in a semifinal game in Nagano, 1998. It should probably have come as no surprise that North American leagues quickly added the shootout, so that their own stars could get some practice.

    Relying perhaps too heavily on career NHL data, we've identified the key shootout artists on each Olympic team and how they've done against the best goalies in the world. Together with each team's goaltending, we have estimated how well they will likely perform should 70 minutes of hockey fail to resolve one of their upcoming contests.

    Have North America's teams finally caught up? After a quick review of the non-contenders, we've ranked each national team by the success differential between their own top three shooters and their starting goaltender. It's close, but the Europeans have finally been knocked off the top spot. 

     

    All shootout statistics are via NHL.com unless otherwise noted.

     

The Non-Contenders

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    12. Latvia

    Secret Weapon: None

     

    11. Austria

    Secret Weapon: Thomas Vanek is 22-of-60, or 36.7 percent, in the NHL.

     

    10. Slovenia

    Secret Weapon: Anze Kopitar has a success rate of 29-of-72 in the NHL, or 40.3 percent.

     

    9. Norway

    Secret Weapon: Mats Zuccarello has made only 17 shootout attempts in his brief NHL career, but he has converted on eight of them, or 47.1 percent. 

     

    8. Switzerland

    Secret Weapon: Not only does Team Switzerland starting goalie Jonas Hiller have a .700 shootout save percentage in the NHL, but in limited action, backup Reto Berra has a .762 save percentage. 

7. Czech Republic

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    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Shootout Differential: -2.8 percent

     

    Shooters

    1. Patrik Elias is 22-of-62 in the NHL, or 35.5 percent.

    2. Ales Hemsky is 20-of-58 in the NHL, also 35.5 percent.

    3. David Krejci is 12-of-36 in the NHL, exactly 33.3 percent.

    The Czech Republic have at least three solid shootout scorers, but none who are at the elite level.

    Despite his tremendous talent, Jaromir Jagr (6-of-22) will likely not be of assistance if any game comes down to a shootout.

     

    Goaltending

    Ondrej Pavelec has an NHL shootout save percentage of .624.

    Unless Jakub Kovar and/or Alexander Salak have a particular talent for the shootout, and somehow wrest the starting goalie position away from Pavelec, there will be no medal-stealing goaltending performances like 1998's. 

6. Finland

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Shootout Differential: 6.7 percent

     

    Shooters

    1. Jussi Jokinen is 31-of-71 in the NHL, or 43.7 percent.

    2. Mikko Koivu is 33-of-79 in the NHL, or 41.8 percent.

    3. Olli Jokinen is 20-of-56 in the NHL, or 35.7 percent.

    Not only do the Finns have three great shooters, but if it goes beyond that, they still have the Finnish Flash Teemu Selanne, whose NHL results are almost identical to Olli Jokinen's. There's also Tuomo Ruutu, whose 9-of-22 mark in the NHL works out to 40.9 percent. 

     

    Goaltending

    The only issue here is that Tuukka Rask's NHL shootout save percentage is just .663. This is decent, but not as elite as his regulation-time play.

    Is it possible that the Finns might consider bringing in a cold goalie for the shootout? If so, Antti Niemi could potentially post a .747 shootout save percentage, much as he does in the NHL, or Kari Lehtonen (.724) could be used as Rask's backup. 

    The only reason Finland isn't ranked higher is the unlikelihood of that scenario. Rask's relatively average ability in the shootout is the only concern here.  

5. Slovakia

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    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Shootout Differential: 7.7 percent

     

    Shooters

    1. Michal Handzus is 19-of-42 in the NHL, or 45.2 percent.

    2. Marian Hossa is 16-of-52 in the NHL, or 30.8 percent.

    Slovakia has only one particular potent NHL shootout specialist, and an unlikely one at that, in veteran defensive forward Michal Handzus. 

    The highly talented Marian Hossa is the only other regular and accomplished NHL shootout specialist in the lineup, but his success rate is actually hovering just below league average. Marian Gaborik is just 6-of-29.

    There could be additional depth either in the half of the Slovakia lineup that plays in the European leagues or perhaps in Tomas Tatar (2-of-6) and Tomas Kopecky (3-of-7).

     

    Goaltending

    Slovakia's advantage is definitely between the pipes.

    Jaroslav Halak has a solid NHL shootout save percentage of .724. If Peter Budaj is in nets for whatever reason, his shootout save percentage is just .623.

4. Russia

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    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Shootout Differential: 11.6 percent

     

    Shooters

    1. Pavel Datsyuk is 35-of-79 in the NHL, or 44.3 percent.

    2. Evgeni Malkin is 18-of-44 in the NHL, or 40.9 percent.

    3. Ilya Kovalchuk is 24-of-62 when he was in the NHL, or 38.7 percent.

    If it comes down to it, Russia is solid and deep in shooters. Even beyond its top three, there is still Alexander Ovechkin, whose 25-of-81 mark in the NHL works out to 30.9 percent.

    Alexander Semin has also been recently added to the roster, and his NHL record of 15-of-47 is 31.9 percent. 

     

    Goaltending

    The Russians' fate all depends on who is between the pipes. Their most likely starting goalie, Sergei Bobrovsky, last year's Vezina winner, has a career .650 save percentage in the shootout, which is roughly league average at best.

    Semyon Varlamov has an elite NHL shootout save percentage of .756. Teams are unlikely to bring in a cold goalie for the shootout, so the Russians may want to consider starting Varlamov just in case a game is settled by a skills competition. 

3. Canada

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Shootout Differential: 13.1 percent

     

    Shooters

    1. Jonathan Toews is 33-of-67 in the NHL, or 49.3 percent, one of the world's best

    2. Sidney Crosby is 25-of-58 in the NHL, or 43.1 percent.

    3. Rick Nash is 29-of-78 in the NHL, or 37.2 percent. That's one reason why he made the cut.

    Canada has two of the best shootout artists in the world and will no longer find itself at a disadvantage in this regard. 

    Beyond the top three, the Canadians also have Anaheim's Corey Perry (23-of-66, 34.8 percent) and Ryan Getzlaf (21-of-59, 35.6 percent), Patrice Bergeron (21-of-62, 33.9 percent), Chris Kunitz (13-of-33, 39.4 percent) and Jamie Benn (10-of-29, 34.5 percent).

     

    Goaltending

    Carey Price has a decent .699 NHL shootout save percentage, with Roberto Luongo close behind at .672. Mike Smith's NHL shootout save percentage is .622.

    Canada will be well-served with solid shootout goaltending, regardless of who is in nets, but it can't expect anything spectacular.

2. Sweden

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Shootout Differential: 15.6 percent

     

    Shooters

    1. Alexander Steen is 12-of-26 in the NHL, or 46.2 percent. 

    2. Nicklas Backstrom is 15-of-38 in the NHL, or 39.5 percent.

    3. Daniel Alfredsson is 19-of-56 in the NHL, or 33.9 percent.

    The Swedish team has some strong shooters, but not the best in the tournament. Especially since the top two haven't taken quite as many attempts, and we can therefore be less certain of their true abilities.

    Henrik Zetterberg may not be of great help, scoring on just 25 percent of his 52 attempts, and Loui Eriksson is just 10-fo-35, or 28.6 percent. The silver lining (pun intended) is Jakob Silfverberg, who has scored on five of his eight NHL shootout attempts.  

     

    Goaltending

    This is where Sweden shines. Henrik Lundqvist is one of the best shootout goalies in the world, posting a .757 shooting save percentage in the NHL. 

    In the unlikely event that someone else is in nets for the Swedes, they are still quite respectable. Jonas Gustavsson's NHL shootout save percentage is .680, and Jhonas Enroth's is .652.

1. USA

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Shootout Differential: 16.4 percent

     

    Shooters

    1. Zach Parise is 35-of-77 in the NHL, or 45.5 percent.

    2. Patrick Kane is 30-of-77 in the NHL, or 40.0 percent.

    3. T.J. Oshie is 22-of-43 in the NHL, or 51.2 percent.

    The Americans are the only team with three shooters averaging a goal on more than 40 percent of their attempts throughout their NHL careers. They also have James van Riemsdyk, who has scored on half of his 14 career shootout attempts. 

    And they have Joe Pavelski (27-of-70, 38.6 percent), Blake Wheeler (16-of-42, 38.1 percent) and Dustin Brown (19-of-58, 32.8 percent), three players that would match up with almost any other Olympic team's lineup.

     

    Goaltending

    Ryan Miller has a fantastic .708 shootout save percentage in the NHL, with Jonathan Quick not far behind at .705. Even third-stringer Jimmy Howard has a .699 save percentage in the shootout. 

    No matter who is in nets, the Americans can expect very strong (but not quite elite) shootout goaltending. That, combined with sitting atop a tight pack of shooters, has them ranked No. 1.

     

    Rob Vollman is author of Rob Vollman's Hockey Abstract, co-author of the annual Hockey Prospectus guides and a featured ESPN Insider writer. @robvollmanNHL.