If a hockey game is tied after three periods of regulation time and an overtime period, that game will go to a penalty shot shootout to decide the winner. The shootout is an exciting and sometimes controversial way to end a hockey game. Here is the complete breakdown of hockey shootouts!
When Does the Shootout Occur in a Game?
When a regular-season game is undecided after 60 minutes of hockey, that game will go into a five-minute overtime period. If the game is still tied at the end of overtime, the game will conclude with a hockey shootout.
The ice gets a quick resurface, which helps skaters shoot the puck more accurately. This resurfacing also allows coaches to pick their first three shooters.
What are the Rules of an Ice Hockey Shootout?
The shootout rules state that the home team has first pick whether they would like to shoot first or second. Some elect to shoot first to get an early goal and set the tone for the rest of the shootout, effectively putting the opposing team on the back foot during the process. However, some coaches want to go second, so they always have an opportunity to answer goals and have a chance to shoot last.
Shootouts start with three rounds of skaters who each have an opportunity to take a penalty shot on the net. The players start with the puck on the center ice faceoff dot and skate towards the net and the opposing goaltender. The shootout continues until a team has the most goals in the three-round period or two unanswered goals.
If the shootout is still tied after three rounds, it will go into a sudden-death series, where each team will have an opportunity on the net until a player earns an unanswered goal.
Why are Shootouts Important in Hockey?
Shootouts declare a winning team in leagues that cannot end in tied games. The nature of the shootout helps ensure matches don’t go too long, which sometimes happens after multiple overtimes. Long games can result in injuries, so a shootout helps reduce that.
Throughout an NHL season, points are given to teams after each game to help decide the NHL playoff order. There are two points available for team wins and zero points for losses. If a game goes to overtime or ends in a shootout, each team gets at least one point, with the winning team getting two points. The distribution of these points is essential for determining playoff order and is one reason that shootouts often matter immensely in the result of a season.
Ice Hockey Shootout Breakdown in International Tournaments
Shootouts occur in international tournaments, like the Olympics. These series and games have some confusing rules about overtime, which may leave some fans thinking that they don’t go to a shootout.
Teams end a tied game by playing five-minute overtime with only three players per side in the group stage. In the playoff rounds and bronze medal games, overtime is a 10-minute 4-on-4 contest. Finally, there’s one 20-minute 4-on-4 overtime period in the gold medal game.
If a game does not end in overtime at any point, the game goes to a shootout.
When Do Games Not End in a Shootout?
There are several scenarios where games don’t end in a shootout. The most notable example is the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a sudden-death overtime period. While overtime is five minutes during the regular season, overtime extends to 20 minutes in the playoffs.
Games will have consecutive overtime until a team wins. In 1936, the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Maroons played the longest NHL game ever. The game went into six overtime periods and was just short of being as long as three NHL games back to back.
What about NCAA Hockey?
The NCAA allows men’s and women’s ice hockey to end in a tie during the regular season, though some fans and players often disregard this. Many teams will opt for a five-minute overtime period to find a winner. If that period doesn’t decide the game, teams have an opportunity to decide the game in a three-round shootout. However, it’s not unusual for teams to agree to the tie if they want to keep skaters fresh for another match or injury-free ahead of a big tournament.
What is the History of the Shootout in the NHL?
Most hockey fans might not realize that the shootout is a relatively recent adoption for the NHL. The league embraced the novel way of ending games during the 2005 offseason as part of the new collective bargaining agreement with the NHL Players Association. Previous to the adoption of the shootout, games that were undecided after an overtime period ended in a tie.
The first game to be decided by a shootout happened on October 5, 2005, between the Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Senators won the game 3-2 with two goals in the shootout scored by Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley on Leafs’ goalie Ed Belfour.
What is the Longest Shootout in NHL History?
The longest shootout in NHL history occurred in December 2014 between the Florida Panthers and the Washington Capitals. The series went 20 rounds until the Panthers’ Nick Bjugstad scored, securing the win for his team.
Criticism of the Hockey Shootout
Many hockey fans are often critical of the shootout because it can be an anticlimactic end to a hockey game. A shootout often comes after 65 minutes of intense action, which usually leaves fans wanting more. Penalty shots often feel more like luck than skill and generally only come with a 30-40% success rate. That means fans can feel cheated if they lose in a shootout after a long, close game.
Some players are more skilled at the shootout than others. Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews leads the league in shootout goals with 51. Similarly, Marc-Andre Fleury leads all goalies with a shootout win record of 61 and a shootout save percentage of 73.8%. Going into a shootout against a skilled, hot goaltender can feel like a forgone conclusion for some fans and players.
Finally, many fans believe a shootout is a less-favorable end in the NHL. Since playoff games don’t end in a shootout, it can feel like the league doesn’t think a shootout is a fair win when games are more important. This consideration is essential for many fans, especially when losing a shootout game during a playoff hunt or against a rival.
Conclusion: What is a Shootout in Hockey?
Shootouts in hockey are essential to ensuring every game has a conclusion and a winner. These endings often come with some criticism from fans, but overall, in an 82 game season, they’re an effective way to keep games short to reduce the chance of injury and ensure an exciting finish. Next time you watch a tied hockey game, be thankful that you’ll only have to watch to the end of a shootout and that it won’t go into its second or third overtime before there’s a winner.