Introducing SoL: Shootout Luck

On a long enough timeline in the NHL, everything seems to balance out.

That’s the general consensus when it comes to PDO, the “puck luck” stat that many in the analytics community use when gauging whether a team is playing above its head or below expectations.

It’s a simple enough stat: Calculate the team’s shooting and save percentage and more often than not it adds up to 100. But that only takes into account the game as it’s played through regulation and overtime.

And despite it not being a favorite of many hockey analysts, the shootout has become a major factor in determining whether a team makes the playoffs and its place in the standings.

This so-called exhibition was created to ensure that there were no ties at the end of NHL games, and that fans went home with a true winner of the game being decided.

The NHL is now in its 10th season featuring the shootout. In that span, there have been 1507 games decided by a breakaway contest. So either way you look at it – a pity point for the loser or a bonus point for the winner – there have been 1507 extra standings points handed out.

Typically when a game hasn’t been decided after the overtime period, the shootout is merely seen as a coin flip scenario. Either a team scores and makes a couple of saves or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t pan out this time, then they’ll probably win the next time. And that’s that.

In a game-by-game, month-by-month, or even season-by-season approach that would seem to make sense. If a team’s best shooters run into a hot goalie then there’s not much it can do to change its fortune.

But on a long enough timeline? Well, maybe then there’s something more to the shootout than just “luck.”

Or are teams just SoL?


Each team has played at least 69 games that have gone to a shootout, with the average number of games being played by each team is just over 100.

As obvious as it sounds, the better a team’s shooting and save percentage, the more likely it will be that the team will win the majority of its shootout games.

So whereas as the Pittsburgh Penguins lead the way with a SoL of 110, their Pennsylvania counterparts have drastically hurt their place in the standings with a SoL of only 86 in a 10-year span.

In total, teams are scoring on just about one out of every three shootout opportunities (.326) while goaltenders are saving the rest (.674).

The Penguins have had the best goaltending save percentage (.735) and the third-best shooting percentage (.367) during that run. Meanwhile the lowly Flyers have had the worst save percentage (.571) and the fourth-worst shooting percentage (.288).

Flyers fans have watched this for far too long.

Put it all together and the difference between the Penguins 1.64 points per game earned in shootout games versus the Flyers 1.33 means that the Penguins are winning half of their games while the Flyers are losing half of their games decided in the shootout.

If all things were equal and the shootout were in fact merely a coin flip (win half, lose half, every team averages 1.5 points per shootout game), then the Penguins would have amassed 148.5 points in their 99 shootout games instead of 162. And the Flyers would have 126 points in their 84 games instead of 104.

Separately, the change in totals may not seem like much, but it means that in a coin flip world that the gap between the two longtime division rivals would shrink by 27.5 points during the 10 years of the shootout era.

Does it all add up to the difference between an elite regular season team and one that is fighting for a playoff spot?

No. But for many of the teams in the NHL, their success is more than just a coin flip.


In the coming days, I’ll try to break down what these shootout stats mean for the LA Kings, as well as highlight any trends or identify any insights I can find.

Feel free to ask any questions or leave any feedback in the comments so we can better make sense of the SoL stat. …or if there’s even anything to look further into at all.

PumperNicholl is a lifelong LA Kings fan and actually learned how to speak English from Bob Miller by watching LA Kings games… and the Police Academy movies. You should probably follow PumperNicholl on Twitter @pumpernicholl