Nashville: Predators or Prey in Extra Time?

The NHL General Managers are meeting to discuss a number of things including what goalie interference means and extending extra time. If extra time is extended, additional extra time will probably look something like some 3 on 3 play after the usual 4 on 4 in an effort to limit the number of games that end in shootouts. This approach is already in place in the AHL with considerable success in reducing the number of games that end in a shootout.

Arguments for such a change claim that a shootout isn’t what hockey is about, and that it is nothing more than a simple skill competition — a novelty that lacks the key components of the games like passing, defense, and communication. Other arguments for such change say that it lacks the excitement it used to have. Arguments against this change point out that there are more penalty shots than 3 on 3 scenarios in regulation anyway, and that 3 on 3 is already getting pretty far from the traditional 5 on 5.

Wheeler scores on Vokoun in the shootout give Jets 3-2 extra time win over Caps (Tom Turk/THW)
Blake Wheeler scores on Tomas Vokoun in the shootout give Jets 3-2 win over Caps (Tom Turk/THW)

Even if the GMs come to a decision, it will have to go before the Players Association. It is far from guaranteed that this will be settled one way or another before the 2015-2016 season.

In the meantime, what every team wants to know, is how would such a change affect their team. Let’s see what the numbers say.

Nashville in Extra Time

At the end of the game, the Predators have chalked up 43 wins, 28 losses (including both regulation and extra time losses), and a win percentage of 61%, fifth in the league. Twenty of those games were tied after regulation meaning that more than a quarter of the Predators’ games were even after 60 minutes. But how do the Predators do in extra time?

I broke down games into four categories based on when they end: regulation, overtime (but not shootouts), shootouts, and extra time, which includes both overtime and shootouts.

In regulation, the Predators are eighth in the league with a 59% win percentage winning 30 out of 51 games. In extra time (OT + SO) the Predators are 13 — 7 for a win percentage of 65%, seventh in the league. So far, there are no big surprises. When we split extra time winning percentages by component category, though, we see where Nashville shines and struggles.

In games that end in the overtime period, the Predators are 7 — 2, a 79% win percentage, enough for second in the league only behind the New York Islanders (6 — 1). But if Nashville can’t put it away before the five overtime minutes are up, the game goes to a shootout, which isn’t ideal for the Predators. They still win most of their shootouts, but they are only 6 — 5, a 55% win percentage, which drops them to 13th in the league.

The Bottom Line

If you are unsure what to make of the changes under discussion by the league, know this: the Predators are excellent in the high pressure, heart wrenching set up of sudden death overtime, playing something closer to the game of hockey than the skills competition of a shootout. Their strengths that have taken them to the top of the league this year are considerably muted when games go to a shootout, however.