I have heard and read several times the past few days about people thinking about what a joke it would be if the Canadiens and Leafs went to a shootout Saturday with the winner making the playoffs and the loser heading for the golf course. The underlying sentiment in this is that it just isn’t right that someones fate could be decided on the basis of a shootout. Now, because of last nights results the above Montreal-Toronto scenario won’t come to fruition, but a similar one could occur Sunday. There is a scenario where the Isles could need a win over NJ to make the playoffs. If that games goes to a shootout, if the Isles in the shootout they get the playoff spot, if they don’t, the Leafs would. Is that really any worse than the Montreal-Leafs scenario?
And what if the Leafs did beat Montreal in overtime on Saturday and the Islanders losing one of their two games resulting in the Leafs tying Montreal with 91 points and the Isles not being able to pass them. Montreal would then make the playoffs on the basis of the fact that they have 2 more wins than the Leafs. Coincidentally, Montreal has 6 shootout wins to the Leafs 4.
Also, Tampa has essentially made the playoffs because of the shootout and the extra points. They are 10-1 in the shootout. If they were 6-5 they would be out of the playoffs needing to win both their final 2 games and the Leafs beating Montreal to make the playoffs. If they were 5-6 they would be eliminated at this point.
But instead this team which is 29-32 in games that end in regulation have made the playoffs and are in contention for the division lead and the 3rd seed. Tampa would be the only team with a sub .500 regulation record to make the playoffs while Carolina is 34-33 in regulation heads for the golf course.
But what is crazy about all of this is that the Lightning are winning the shootouts because of their goaltending, not their big 3 forwards. Their goalies have a phenominal .936 save% in the shootout but a league worst .884 save % during the regular and OT play. Meanwhile Tampa has a 21st best 29.8% shooting percentage. If that doesn’t tell you how much ‘luck’ is involved in the shootout I don’t know what does. Boston is 9-4 in shootouts, Phoenix is 5-2 while Detroit is 2-8, Ottawa is 2-6 and Anaheim is 4-9. Clearly shootouts don’t have a lot to do with the skill and ability of the teams or players involved. Knowing this, does it really make sense to have over 13% of all NHL games, and as explained above, playoff positions decided by luck and not skills? I’ll let you decide.
Yes, I know people will argue that it is exciting and fans like it and hockey is really all about entertainment and if fans are entertained then it is good for the game. I simply cannot accept that argument. Yes, hockey is entertainment but it is first and foremost a professional competition and being a competition it is in my mind imperative to maintain the integrity of the competition itself. knowingly adding a significant amount of ‘luck’ under the banner of ‘entertainment’ into the equation only harms the game of hockey as a sport and a competition and thus, at least in small part, puts it on the same level as say, professional wrestling.