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Why OT And Shootouts Are Such Headaches For NHL Bettors

There aren’t many things more frustrating than losing NHL bets in overtime or shootouts that are basically a coin toss.

Overtime and shootouts are such a headache for hockey bettors. In this article we’ll show you some NHL overtime stats (you’ll probably be surprised by how high a percentage of NHL games go to OT) and why the outcomes of OT and shootouts are basically impossible to predict.

Shootouts are down (but teams are still working lots of overtime)

The introduction of 3-on-3 overtime at the start of the 2015-16 season immediately decreased the amount of NHL games that go to shootouts, but there are still a lot of hockey games that are tied at the end of regulation.

In 2015-16, 275 of 1,230 games (22.3%) needed more than three periods to decide. Of those 275 games, 107 of them (39%) went to a shootout.

Those NHL overtime stats were down a bit from the previous season, when nearly 25% of games (306 of 1,230) went to 4-on-4 OT and more than 55% of those OT games (170) were decided by shootouts. The open ice of 3-on-3 overtime has definitely helped determine winners by traditional hockey goals, rather than penalty shots, though you still sometimes see coaches playing things conservatively in OT for whatever reason.

Frustratingly enough, a study by Deadspin’s Stephen Pettigrew concluded that 84% of tie games would be decided in 3-on-3 overtime if the OT period was 10 minutes long, not 5.

However, the number of games that go to OT are still on pace with the long-time average of 22.5 percent, according to a 2012 Bleacher Report article. With defensive-minded hockey having taken over the NHL since the neutral-zone-trap-crap of the Devils in the mid ’90s, there’s more potential for 2-2 ties than there were in the days of Wayne-Gretzky-and-the-Oilers’ firewagon 7-5 games.

Having your NHL bets decided by something other than traditional 5-on-5 play is a problem that isn’t going away. And over time, it will probably drive you absolutely nuts. If you can’t take it anymore, check out our article on 5 ways to stop losing NHL bets in shootouts.

Shootouts are basically unpredictable

It’s infuriating to bet on a big underdog, have them take the favourite to overtime, then lose in a shootout. The underdog is happy, having earned a point, but you lost your money.

Or maybe you had the favourite which dominated the game, but the underdog went into a defensive shell in the third period, just hoping to get to a shootout. Once the shootout arrived, the underdog had 3 really good shooters or a hot goalie and pulled off the upset.

Here are some interesting NHL shootout stats from 2015-16 that illustrate how difficult it is to predict how teams will do in shootouts:

  • The Avalanche were 4-0 in shootouts, and missed the playoffs.
  • The Panthers were 7-3 in shootouts, and won their division.
  • 5 teams that made the playoffs in 2015-16 (Flyers, Blackhawks, Red Wings, Kings and Ducks) had a losing record in shootouts.
  • The Sharks, who had 3 of the NHL’s top 11 scorers (Thornton, Pavelski and Burns), were just 4-3 in shootouts.

Overtime is a crapshoot, too

Even the worst teams in the NHL have 3 good players they can put out on the ice for 3-on-3 overtime, or the very best teams have 3 absolute ringers that should theoretically give them a huge advantage.

You might try to take this into account when you’re handicapping a game, but what if the team you want to bet on is really good in regulation time but stinks in overtime? Do you pass on the bet, just because of the 25% chance the game goes to OT?

Check out these NHL overtime stats from 2015-16:

  • The Capitals were 7-6 in overtime, compared to 45-18 in regulation time.
  • The Predators were 2-12 in overtime, but made the playoffs.
  • The Flames were 9-4 in overtime, and missed the playoffs.
  • The Panthers were 1-6 in overtime, compared to 7-3 in shootouts.

NHL Overtime Stats And Shootout Stats (2011-12 to 2015-16)

In the graphic below, you can see how some teams’ winning percentages in overtime and shootouts over the past 5 years has been drastically different from their regulation time winning percentages.

(Winning percentages that vary by more than 5% between regulation and OT/shootouts are highlighted in bold.)

Team OT/Shootout Win % In Past 5 Years Regulation Win % In Past 5 Years OT/Shootout Win % Compared to Regulation Win%
Penguins Logo  65.4%  62.1% +3.3%
Blues Logo  61.9%  60.8%  +1.1%
Avalanche Logo  57.9%  45.5%  +12.4%
Capitals Logo  56.7%  55%  +1.7%
Rangers Logo  56.5%  58.6%  -2.1%
Blue Jackets Logo  56.4%  42.9%  +13.5%
Blackhawks Logo  54.5%  62.8%  -8.3%
Canucks Logo  54%  50.6%  +3.4%
Lightning Logo  53.9%  50.3%  +3.6%
Sharks Logo  53.8%  54.4%  -0.6%
Islanders Logo  53%  47.5%  +5.5%
Jets Logo  52.4%  45.6%  +6.8%
Bruins Logo  52.1%  58.5%  -7.4%
Canadiens Logo  51.2%  53%  -1.8%
Senators Logo  50.2%  48.9%  +1.3%
Flames Logo  50%  43.3%  +6.7%
Wild Logo  49.7%  50.1%  -0.4%
Sabres Logo  49.5%  33.6%  +15.9%
Ducks Logo  49.5%  59.9%  -10.4%
Stars Logo  49.1%  52.1%  -3%
Leafs Logo  46.9%  41.1%  +5.8%
Red Wings Logo  46.3%  53.8%  -7.5%
Flyers Logo  44.6%  51.2%  -6.6%
Kings Logo  44.3%  56.2%  -11.9%
Oilers Logo  43.8%  34%  +9.8%
Devils Logo  43.4%  46.2%  -2.8%
Coyotes Logo  42.5%  43%  -0.5%
Predators Logo  40.7%  51.4%  -10.7%
Panthers Logo  40.5%  45%  -4.5%
Hurricanes Logo  32.5%  43%  -10.5%

The Avalanche, Blue Jackets, Oilers and Sabres’ winning percentages increased by approximately 10% or more in OT/shootouts over that 5-year span, while the Ducks, Kings, Predators and Hurricanes were 10% worse in OT/shootouts than they were in regulation time.

It may make sense that the Blue Jackets and Sabres were so much better in OT/shootouts because they had very poor records in regulation time (it’s easier to improve on a poor winning percentage when placed in a 50/50 situation). And it may make sense that the Ducks, Kings and Predators were so much worse in OT/shootouts because they had very good records in regulation time.

But then that doesn’t explain how excellent regulation teams like the Penguins (62.1% in regulation) or Blues (60.8%) were actually better in OT/shootouts, or how a poor regulation team like the Hurricanes (43% in regulation) were significantly worse (32.5%) in OT/shootouts.

Ultimately, it seems there isn’t much reason to believe a team’s winning percentage in regulation time is an indicator of their success in the NHL overtime stats and shootout records.

In other words, there’s a lot of luck and randomness involved.

Hate having your NHL bets decided in 3-on-3 overtime or breakaway competitions? Then be sure to check out our article on 5 ways to avoid losing NHL bets in shootouts.