January 03, 2008

Shootout Specialists: Peter Forsberg, Jussi Jokinen and George Costanza

It is pretty safe to say Peter Forsberg left his stamp on the game of hockey.
Before "Foppa" came to North America and dominated the National Hockey League, he remained in Swede, preferring to play for Modo and the Swedish national team for 3 years. He was particularly interested in playing in the 1994 Winter Olympic games in Lillehammer, Norway, as at that time the NHL did not release their players to participate in the Olympics. Forsberg did not want to miss what at the time looked like his only chance at Olympic competition.

And what an Olympic competition it was. Sweden defeated Canada in a classic gold medal game that ended in a thrilling sudden death shootout. Peter Forsberg scored one of the most magnificent goals in the history of the sport for a thrilling ending, giving Sweden its first ever Olympic gold medal in hockey.

Posten AB, the Swedish postal service, decided to use the overhead image of Forsberg's goal to create a stamp to help launch the 1995 IIHF World Championships being held in Sweden. The stamp, pictured above, remains popular amongst hockey collectors all around the world.

Forsberg's goal may be the most famous shootout goal in hockey history. And who can forget Marek Malik's between the leg's surprise, Pierre Bouchard's spin-o-rama or Pavel Datsyuk's undressing of Tomas Vokoun.

These goals are all well remembered because they came in spectacular fashion. But the question I started asking myself was which school of thought has the best success rate - the shot or the deke?

I've been trying to find some sort of statistic to determine whether or not shooting or dekeing is more successful. I've been unable to uncover any such daunting research, although LCS Hockey enlisted the help of George Constanza in an interesting shootout strategy expose last season.

In place of shoot vs. deke, I thought I would take look at the top shootout goal scorers from the last two complete seasons, and see what trends we can find. This proved to be a tough task, until I found the website http://www.nhlshootouts.com/ .

Did you know that as of Jan 2nd, 2008, there have been 375 shootouts in NHL history? That is slightly more than 12% of all NHL games dating back to 2005. There have been 882 shootout goals on 2634 shots, for a shooting percentage of 33.49%. Interestingly, there is no real advantage to being the home team or to be the team that shoots first. However the team that scores first wins more than 80% of the contests.

Here's a look at the best shooters. All career stats are as of Jan. 2nd, 2008.

And here's a look at the players with the most game deciding goals:

The first thing that jumps out at me is the number of European trained players that dominate the list. Seven of the top ten goal scoring leaders are European. Perhaps the myth that European players are better skilled is true? Well I don't know about that, but here's a shootout breakdown by nationality:
NHL Shootouts.com is a great place to bookmark and spend some time at. These are just a very few of the many statistical categories you can explore. Check it out today!

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