Flames live and die by the shootout

HermanVonPetri/Phototree

 

The shootout is an asinine extra-curricular that shouldn’t be a determining factor in the game any more than, say, a three-point contest shouldn’t decide a basketball game or a home run derby crown a winner after nine innings of play.

 

And while it’s all fun and games for the fans, the shootout could have serious implications on the Flames playoff chances, despite their proficiency in the harebrained skills competition this season (8-6).

 

If two or more teams are tied in points after 82 games, the first tiebreaker used to determine the higher seed is total amount of wins, excluding games won in a shootout. This is the first year for the new formula.

 

With eight shootout victories in the books, the most in the conference, and teetering on the playoff bubble, it would be an odd twist of fate if the Flames playoff hopes were in peril thanks to one of their strengths and biggest areas of improvement from a season ago (3-7 in 2009-10).

 

Although the Flames would be in 11th place and two points out of the playoffs without the help of the shootout, what’s the sense of rewarding a team with the extra point in the first place if the league is going to discount them when it matters most?

 

Sure, it’s understandable to reward a team who’s won more games without the crutch of a breakaway contest.

 

And who knows, maybe it provides extra motivation for teams to lay it on the line and make a push to finish off their opponents in regulation and overtime, thus making the game more exciting.

 

But regardless of whatever logical reasoning the NHL conjures up, it would be a mockery of the system if a playoff hopeful didn’t make the cut because they succeeded in the league’s imprudent revenue-generating scheme.

 

The league has to look at the hypocrisy of this set up and either change the point value for regulation wins or scrap the shootout entirely.

 

But enough excuses, all teams abide by the same rules and if the Flames want to avoid controversy they need to start winning more in regulation and overtime, or at least continue to rack up wins in the extra-extra frame.

 

Luckily they have the league’s most deadly breakaway specialist in Alex Tanguay, who tops the NHL with eight goals on 14 attempts this season (57 percent).

 

As a team, the Flames own the fourth-best shooting percentage in the breakaway contest at 37.8 percent, but are 15th in the league with a .674 save percentage.

 

Aside from getting an extra save here and there from the goaltending duo of Miikka Kiprusoff and Henrik Karlsson, the Flames skaters would be wise to shoot the puck more and deke less.

 

Calgary is successful 48 percent of the time when they shoot, with Tanguay leading the charge at 67 percent (6-for-9). Comparatively, deke attempts have only worked 19 percent of the time (3- for-16).

 

So forget the fancy moves — just bear down and fire the puck.

 

Check out an example from the first four shooters in this game against Los Angeles earlier in the season (skip to 1:10).

 

Sitting uncomfortably in eighth place with the Nashville Predators lingering one point back with two games in hand and several other teams in the hunt, the Flames could very well finish in a precarious tiebreak situation.

 

And it would be a shame to see them, or any other team, held back because of a frivolous league-mandated competition better reserved for all-star games.