NHL Shootout Rules

Picture of NHL Shootout

The excitement of an ice hockey game is unmatched because of its extremely fast paced and physical play. Played with breakneck speed, the games are eagerly followed by legions of rooting fans and nothing is more exciting than seeing your team score a highlight reel goal! Players live for that huddle after scoring a goal, cheered on by thousands of happy fans. Scoring a goal can be an instant momentum changer or in the case of a shootout win the game for your team! 

The NHL has responded by continuously improving the gameplay and in a bid to have more goals (and more excitement), the NHL decided that no game could end in a tie. If the number of goals of either team is the same even after the overtime, a shootout ensues. It’s a nerve-wracking experience for players and fans alike and is widely anticipated by NHL fans everywhere. Here’s everything you need to know about a shootout.

When Did The NHL Start Using Shootouts

The NHL introduced the new rule from the 2005-06 season. It was announced in July 2005 that regular-season games tied at the end of the overtime would culminate in a shootout. The points system was also re-evaluated to be on par with the new rules. The team that wins, either in the regulation time, during the overtime, or in a shootout, will receive two points. The team losing during the overtime or the shootout will still get one point. However, no points are awarded when the team loses in the regulation time. 

How did the hockey community respond to the shootout rules? A mixed response ensued, with some people in favor of it, while others were against it. Here’s a quick roundup of the arguments, both for and against an NHL shootout in hockey. 

Rooting for shootouts 

  • It creates high intensity moments to finish the hockey game. 
  • Inconclusive games fail to generate the thrill of winning. 
  • It upholds the goal culture. Fans often complain that a defensive style results in a boring game. Shootouts restore the glory of goal-scoring. 
  • Even casual fans can follow a shootout, which ultimately helps in drawing more crowds. 
  • It keeps up with the spirit of the evolution of the game. New rules help create a better version of the game. 

Those against shootouts

  • Hockey should be a team game instead of ending in a series of breakaways. Goals need to be earned by out-skating the opposing team 
  • The shootout is just a gimmick tactic to increase viewership on TV
  • A tie is a just decision reflecting that both teams played an even game and both deserve a point 

The points system, according to NHL shootout rules, becomes more complex.

Hockey Shootout Picture

NHL Shootout Rules

So, what are the NHL shootout rules? If the game results in a tie during the regulation period, it continues for an extra five minutes of overtime where both teams play three vs three. When the overtime is inconclusive, the shootout ensues. Each team has to select three players who rotate to take a penalty shot against the opposite team’s goaltender. The home team gets to decide which team will shoot first. 

The teams alternate in taking shots, and the team that scores the most number of goals in this phase becomes the winner. The shootout follows a two-minute break during which the ice-clearing machine is used to cut a fresh lane from the center ice to the net. 

Goalies need to defend the same hockey net where they stood during the regulation time and the overtime. The coach chooses the three players taking the penalty. A player cannot take a penalty if he is serving a misconduct penalty, a match penalty, or a game misconduct penalty. 

Players will have to start at the center ice. The player attempting the shot should be beyond the blue line and into the offensive zone. Once the player uses his stick to make contact with the puck, he must move forward with the puck towards the goal. If he stops moving forward or even moves backward, the shot stands canceled. The hockey player cannot hit a rebound off the goalie or the crossbars. The only way a rebound can happen is when the hockey puck strikes the goalie and enters the net. The goalie is forbidden to throw the stick or any other equipment to obstruct the shooter from scoring.

Do All Hockey Games Go To Shootouts

There’s good news for those who think shootouts negatively affect the original spirit of the game. It is not used in the playoffs of any major North American league, particularly the biggest tournament of them all, the Stanley Cup. Instead, full twenty minutes of overtime periods are allocated until one of the team scores a goal. In the prestigious playoffs, NHL allocates as many overtimes needed to score a goal and determine a winner. So far, the longest game in the NHL playoff history continued for six overtimes and took 116 game minutes to reach a conclusion. 

The Stanley Cup playoffs are played in the elimination format. It consists of four rounds of a best-of-seven series, ultimately deciding the league champion who takes home the Stanley Cup. Eight teams competing in each of the two conferences qualify for the playoff stage depending on the total score from the regular season. The two conference champions sweat it out in the Stanley Cup finals.

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Who is the Best NHL Shootout Scorer of All Time

Jonathan Toews, the captain of Chicago Blackhawks, is the most successful shootout specialist in NHL history. He is the first player in NHL history to score 50 shootout goals, a feat he accomplished in 2020. When he became the first player to score 50 shootout goals, he had already taken 101 career shootouts. With a 49.5% conversion rate, he has created a powerful feat that is hard to match.

What is the Best NHL Shootout Goal of All Time

Ask any NHL fan about the best shootout goal of all time, and the answer is always the same. The goal scored by Marek Malik on November 26, 2005, has become the stuff of legends. Even after all these years, folks remember the phenomenal goal scored by Malik. Playing for the New York Rangers against Washington Capitals in the Madison Square Garden, that goal shot Malik to a place of forever fame in NHL history. 

Rangers coach Tom Renney decided to send Malik in over the boards in the 15th round. Little did he know that history was about to be created. Malik skated to the right, maneuvering the puck between his legs. The next moment he released a wrist shot that completely outwitted the goalie and sent Madison Square Garden into a fit of frenzy. Even those playing on the rink could not seem to believe their eyes as Malik pulled off this seemingly impossible shot. Malik later said that it seemed like a difficult shot, but it came naturally to him. 

It was the first season of NHL allowing shootouts, and the game had already continued to 15 rounds of overtime shootout. In a later interview, Malik claimed that he was not nervous at all and still remembers that night fondly. Malik left the NHL after the 2008-09 season. Even today, his feat is etched in NHL history as one of the greatest moments of underdog triumph.

Do Shootout Goals Count for Player Stats

Shootout goals are not considered to be a part of the individual statistics of players. It is not added to the total goals scored by the player and does not have any bearing on total points. Neither are these goals taken into account for the goalie’s statistics, including goals against, goals-against average, or the save percentage. There’s a separate category for individual shootouts in the official NHL records. 

The winning team of the shootout has one goal added to the season total. One goal-against is added to the season total of the losing team. This rule holds irrespective of the number of goals scored in the shootout phase.

Differences Between NHL and Olympic Shootouts

The governing body for Olympic hockey is the IIHF or the International Ice Hockey Federation. Olympic level hockey is slightly different in rules from those in NHL. For example, a player can take only one shot during the shootout phase of the NHL, at least until all players of the team have had at least one shot. In the Olympics, a team can send the same player as many times as the coach wants once the shootout enters the sudden death stage. 

The overtime duration of the Olympic Games varies from round to round. During the group stage, five-minute overtime is allowed with 3 on 3 hockey. For games in the playoff round or the bronze medal games, ten minutes of 4 on 4 overtime is allowed. For the gold medal game, the teams are allowed 20 minutes of 4 on 4 game. The game goes into a shootout if the overtimes are inconclusive.

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An NHL shootout remains to be one of the most thrilling phases of the game. Despite being controversial, it has been highly effective in reaching conclusive outcomes for several high-voltage games. As long as the game is not in the playoff phase, a shootout is crucial to decide the match-winner.

2 thoughts on “NHL Shootout Rules”

  1. What happens if they get to the 18th round and one team is down a player? If it goes to a 19th round, do they have to go in the same order?

    • Both teams have to use all available players before using a player a second time. If a team suffers and injury then it would in theory be allowed to use a person a second time one skater sooner, once all other players had shot. This is all addressed in rule 84.4 in the NHL rulebook. Thanks for asking!


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