If you’ve been on the Twitter machine over the last week, you may have seen this gem of a question pass by…
The best hockey player born on your birthday has to score on a penalty shot to save your life. The goalie he's facing is the starter of the Stanley Cup champs the year you graduated high school.
Do you get to see tomorrow?
— Noted Hockey Fan (@GameTimeArt) July 24, 2019
First off, holy crap I didn’t ever expect to get the response to this that it did! For someone who can’t ever look away from his phone and check Twitter when there is that little notification icon but also hates the idea of turning that notification icon off, the last few days have been interesting to say the least.
I’ve loved a lot of the replies made as there has been a handful of great hypothetical Hockey Hall Of Fame caliber match-ups that have come from it. As someone who also loves mind-bending “what-if?” scenarios that cross different eras, the replies ended up being a fantastic treat.
As replies came in though, it was starting to become kind of funny how many people thought they were automatically safe relying on the shooter in a one on one penalty shot showdown. Without any real numbers in my head as to what the rate of successful attempts was, I knew it wasn’t high, but as good friend of JetsNation Murat Ates of The Athletic tweeted about a day after “the question” blew up, it certainly wasn’t as high as people would like to think…
Just saying all of you who took @GameTimeArt's shootout-to-save-your-life challenge are overestimating how often people actually score on penalty shots.
I'm going to miss so many of —
— oh no it was meeeee
— Murat Ates (@WPGMurat) July 24, 2019
So I did a bit of digging and sure enough, if you look at NHL records – which I learned the NHL actually has a neat little official site for – once you get past the top two or maybe three players on the list of players who have had ten or more shootout attempts, you’ll see it’s pretty much a 50-50 proposition. Here’s your top ten career shooters with ten or more attempts.
Look at our boy Patrik up in the top ten!
Petteri Nummelin? Yeah, I had never heard of him either, but turns out he played three seasons in the NHL, one back in 2000-01 with the Columbus Blue Jackets and then five years later had a two season stint with the Minnesota Wild. He has almost as many shootout goals (8) as he does career regular game goals (9) in 139 games played.
Hockey is a funny sport sometimes.
But on to the topic at hand, which is that many of us are screwed in the scenario posed in my Twitter question. The list of players who are at 40% (give or take a few tenths of a percentage) or less reads like a who’s-who of players you’d think would be better.
Sidney Crosby? 96 shootout attempts, only 39 goals. That’s 40.6%
Pavel Datsyuk? Ya know, “The Magic Man”? The guy who once turned Dallas Stars goalie Marty Turco inside out with this?
He didn’t do that as often in actual shootouts going 40 for 98. (40.8%)
Teemu Selanne was 21 of 58 (36.2%) so there wasn’t much finish to his flash in the glorified skills competition event.
Alexander Ovechkin is your man? His name came up a lot in my replies and a lot of you sharing a birthday with him think you’re safe right? At just a 31.7% success rate (33 of 104 chances) you’re probably better off getting your affairs in order. At least you can take heart in the fact that you have better odds with Ovi than if you would have had if you had to rely on Hall Of Famers like Mike Modano (8 of 30, 26.7%) and Jarome Iginla (12 of 46, 26.1%)
And if your hope is that maybe the odds have gotten better as we’ve had more years of shootout attempts, the 2018-19 season would prove you wrong. Of the 25 players this past season that had six or more shootout attempts, only seven of them were 50% or better in converting their shootout attempts and three of those players only met the bare minimum of three goals on six attempts needed to be on that list.
Turns out my life-depends-on-it-shootout question is more effective than a Thanos snap of the fingers.
While you now contemplate life, what it means and just how screwed you are if your life ever comes down to a one on one hockey duel, you can find the entire list of career shootout performers (again, with more than ten attempts to their name) over on the NHL Records site, and then enjoy this montage that Sportsnet put together a year ago featuring what they at the time felt was the ten best shootout goals of all-time.