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The Flyers and the Shootout

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Going past overtime is just expected at this point.

Philadelphia Flyers v New Jersey Devils Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Flyers’ past three games have all been decided by a shootout.

As one might have guessed, the Flyers have had more games decided by the shootout than any other team in the NHL this season (both the Flyers and Florida Panthers have had six shootout results so far). For perspective, the Flyers only partook in four shootouts all of last year.

Over the past four seasons (this current one included) the Flyers are 15-16, and so far this year they have won three games and lost three games in the shootout. The most recent of these games was a loss to the Washington Capitals in which Evgeny Kuznetsov scored the game-winner, beating Hart high to his blocker side.

Despite this, and of course taking into account the prevalence of the shootout in recent games, there no longer seems to be a premonition of doom whenever the Flyers go past the overtime frame. The 3-on-3 overtime will always, without fail, nearly give me a heart attack. The very nature of 3-on-3 leads to nerves due to the rampant back-and-forth action. Even though this format is a more decisive way to end a game, and is a better showcase for a team’s skill, I’m never quite confident when the Flyers go to overtime.

This is certainly how many fans used to feel when the Flyers would face a shootout. However, I now no longer hold this reservation. This is not to say that I don’t trust the Flyers in the 3-on-3 overtime. I think they have the skill at forward to compete with any club in that regard. However, the shootout is no longer the death sentence it used to be.

Both Carter Hart and Brian Elliot have squared up to shooters well and have patiently read dekes and shots. In particular with Carter Hart, I was very impressed with how he handled David Pastrnak in the Flyers’ win against Boston. Pastrnak, who at that game was the NHL’s top goal-scorer, has always been good one-on-one, and can usually deke goaltenders with ease. However, Hart refused to bite, stayed patient, and was with Pastrnak all the way through. In the end, Pastrnak had simply ran out of room to maneuver and had to shoot from a very odd angle.

It almost feels like the Flyers have specifically prepared for shootouts, and rightfully so. They are statistically the worst-performing NHL franchise in the shootout, with their all-time winning percentage at a measly 0.358. Even with all the talent they have had at forward, they couldn’t get it done in a one-on-one scenario.

It could simply be that the Flyers have a combination of a very good goaltender and some players who know how to deke properly. Claude Giroux has always been a good bet in the shootout, but against the Maple Leafs and Capitals, he really outdid himself. That slap-shot effort against Frederik Andersen was absolute filth. It’s not just him either! Key youngsters like Joel Farabee (against the Bruins) have helped decide these shootouts. It’s refreshing to see these all around contributions.

Even if the shootout is a rather cheap way to end a hockey game, and even if can often be a 50/50 toss up, the fact that the Flyers aren’t doomed to lose all of them is a welcome sight after years and years of failure. This hopefully will mean more tallies under the ‘W’ column rather than measly loser points.