Long Suffering Fans Feeling Better
TORONTO -- Help. I have PSS!
Penalty shot syndrome affects an unknown number of hockey fans annually. Unfortunately, it does not target nearly enough referees. That being said, I feel as though my prescription is being filled more frequently these days, and despite working on contract without benefits, I don't mind paying the price.
PSS is the constant craving for one-on-one showdowns within the framework of the worlds' greatest game. Is it a delicate decision on the part of the officials to award a penalty shot? Absolutely. But the numbers indicate that the nightly highlight reels have shown more of them this season, than at any time in recent memory.
In 2002-03, there were just 39 penalty shots for the entire season.
Thirty-nine guaranteed, edge of your seat moments, in 1230 games! For the record, only 9 resulted in goals, but one shouldn't dismiss this as goaltender domination. In fact, 9/39 leaves the goaltenders with a .770 save percentage in the heat of the moment. Doesn't sound right, does it?
In 2003-04, through February, there had been 47 penalty shots already, resulting in 17 goals! That left the goalies with a save percentage of .639, well off of today's league average of .913.
Obviously the numbers are being taken out of context somewhat as a netminder doesn't face 30 breakaways on a nightly basis. So, it only stands to reason that his save percentage would be far higher in "real game" situations. But the underlying message is obvious. Award more penalty shots, the chance of scoring rises exponentially.
I happen to be one of those who does not see a need for increased goal scoring league-wide. Close games are where its' at.
But I do like to be entertained, and to me, goaltenders being put to the test are fascinating to watch. Why is it wrong if the goalies stop all 50 penalty shots in a season?
Have you not seen how they're doing it? Unless they are illegally (allegedly) constructed like a certain Mighty Duck, most are making the saves through outstanding athleticism.
It would appear the NHL is moving in the right direction, as they've given the green light to the officials to place the puck at centre ice more often than before.
Now, if we could only just hurry-up the process of getting the shootout into place. That would make for even greater regular-season hockey.
Penalty shot notes from 2003-04
The Vancouver Canucks have been involved in more penalty shots than any other team with 8. They are 0/2 when shooting, and 5/6 when it comes to stopping them.
Of note, they've used three different goalies, with Alex Auld 1 for 1, Johan Hedberg 2 for 2, and Dan Cloutier 2 for 3 in these pressure situations.
Every team has been involved in at least one penalty shot, but 5 teams have been involved in only one.
Anaheim, Buffalo, Edmonton, Nashville and Toronto are the deprived ones, and ironically all have had to face the shot, not take the shot.
Florida's Roberto Luongo is the king of the crease, stopping all 3 this season. He is also 4 for 4 in his career.
Milan Hejduk (the reigning Rocket Richard Trophy winner) is 2 for 2, having scored on Michael Leighton and Nikolai Khabibulin within a span of eight days, the latter in overtime.
Calgary's Shean Donovan (no NHL awards to his credit) is also 2 for 2, beating Vesa Toskala and Sean Burke.
First-year King, Esa Pirnes is 0 for 2 with his failed attempts coming in games two and three this season. (perhaps a precursor to him scoring just two in his first 39 games). Not to worry Esa, the Blues Pavol Demitra is in the same 0 for 2 boat.
Minnesota's Antti Laaksonen is 1 for 2, and the only member of the Wild to miss. Marian Gaborik, Richard Park, and Wes Walz all scored, leaving the team 4 for 5, tops in the league.
Somewhat ironic when you consider the Red Wings are 0 for 3, and the Blues 0 for 4.
Referees seem more willing to award a penalty shot as the game goes on, and the shooters seem to prosper.
Penalty Shot Results from the last 10 seasons
94-95 (lockout season)
3 goals on 17 shots
5 goals on 27 shots
10 goals on 24 shots
16 goals on 34 shots
11 goals on 27 shots
16 goals on 40 shots
9 goals on 32 shots
11 goals on 46 shots
9 goals on 39 shots
03-04 (to date)
17 goals on 47 shots