Vulgar Statistics: The Shootout Project
Last season I watched every single shootout. Every. Single. One. I wanted to look for trends. Were right handed shooters or left handed shooters better. Was deking better than shooting? Were there any other patterns? The following is what I found, but first, some definitions of terms.
Deking vs. Shooting: It’s surprisingly difficult to draw a line since players are generally moving the puck side to side in some manner all the way in. For the purposes of the study, any side-to-side movement below the hashmarks constituted a deke. If the puck was released above the hashmarks, it was a shot, regardless of movement coming in.
The moves: I wanted to categorize deking moves to see if some were more effective than others. They are:
- 100 Kane Dekes
- Backhand (Kopitar at :33)
- Backhand top-shelf
- Between the Legs
- Datsyuk Backwards skate / toe drag (There are a few variations on this, but I opted to combine them)
- Head fake, forehand
- Omark Shoulder Flip
The shot locations: Likewise, this was also tricky. For shots that went in, it was easy, I just marked where it went in. For shots that didn’t I did my best to approximate where the save was made and where the shooter was aiming.
Misses: A lost puck, a shot wide, or a post hit all counted as misses.
- Shooting: 552 attempts, 160 goals (28.99%) Miss – 14.5%
- Deking: 716 attempts, 239 goals (33.38%) Miss – 16.1%
My theory was that with NHL-caliber shots and goaltender reflexes that can only be so good, that shooting would prove to be a better option in the shootout. I was wrong and in hindsight it makes sense. You gain more in opening up larger windows to put the puck than you lose in potentially making an error stick-handling and shooting players were only slightly less likely to miss the net than deking players were to lose the puck.
Obviously left handed (blocker) goalie sample size was a little lacking which accounts for the skewed numbers for left handed shots vs. left handed goalies, but otherwise I was surprised at how close the numbers were. I would have thought that either same hand or opposite hand matchups would have an advantage over the other, but they really didn’t.
The key to pulling off a successful deke, aside from it being a cheat like the spinorama, is to be able to do it really well. Thus it’s not surprising that “The Forsberg,” pulled off by a handful of extremely skilled players, and the simplest move, the “head fake, forehand” were the most successful. I honestly thought that backhand, top-shelf would fare better, but if read well, it’s an easy one for a goalie to be in position to save.
Again, I was proven wrong. I thought one location in particular (high blocker or five hole) would dominate percentage-wise, but they were all relatively even. Except for low glove. Never go low glove.
Conventional wisdom is that the best shooters go first, to start off with a goal and give your goaltender some confidence, and last, when the shootout could potentially be won. Statistically, that was not the case and without being on every bench in every shootout, I can’t say why.
And when rounds 4 through 13 are considered as a whole, they’re not appreciably different from rounds 1 through 3 aside from their being fewer dekes in general.
The Best Shooters (5+ shots):
Interesting to note that some of the best shooters aren’t guys that are universally known for their shots. Brad Boyes led the pack with a relatively even performance across several locations. Jason Pominville’s lack of variety was amusing.
The Best Dekers (5+ dekes):
Probably unsurprisingly, T.J. Oshie leads the list using two moves. Highlights: Mikko “backhand-shelf or bust” Koivu and Alexander Ovechkin’s hilarious failure.
What We Learned:
The shootout is a giant crapshoot. Seriously. Unless you have one or more of the handful of guys that are unnaturally skilled at it, it’s pretty much a coin flip on any given night. However, unlike the journalists that routinely decry it, this writer actually did the research.