In mid-February, with the Capitals still waiting for their first shootout game of the season, Coach Adam Oates made it clear he wasn’t fond of the extra tiebreak procedure that the NHL started using in the 2005-06 season.
“You know what, I understand why they did it,” Oates said on Feb. 20. “It’s supposed to be another exciting thing for the fans, and if it works, great. Great for the league.”
Even after the Capitals earned a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers via a shootout, Oates still wasn’t particularly fond of deciding games by a skills competition.
“I know it’s a crowd thing,” Oates said at Madison Square Garden Sunday night after Washington’s victory. “For me it’s tough to lay it on the line for 65 minutes and end it that way. But it’s the same for both teams.”
Washington was the last team in the NHL to go to a shootout in this abbreviated 48-game season. Meanwhile, this marked the sixth shootout of the year for the Rangers.
Braden Holtby stopped attempts by Rick Nash, Ryan Callahan and Brad Richards but allowed a goal to Derek Stepan. In the opposite end, Henrik Lundqvist thwarted tries by Matt Hendricks and Mike Ribeiro but gave up goals to Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.
Holtby said he doesn’t mind the shootout itself, but concurred with Oates that the Capitals would prefer to find a way to win in regulation or the five-minute overtime period.
“It’s a fun challenge. It’s a one-on-one type thing. Obviously you hope it doesn’t affect your season in a bad way, but at the same time I believe in wins and losses,” Holtby said. “I don’t like to tie things. Tonight we did a great job of it. But hopefully we win it before.”
The NHL instituted the shootout and three-point system following the 2004-05 lockout in an effort to eliminate ties and make games more exciting for fans. But there remains a large contingent of fans and members of the hockey community, including beat writers on deadline, who aren’t entirely enthusiastic about deciding a game in a manner that doesn’t reflect the previous 65 minutes of play.
“It’s weird,” Oates said back in February. “I come from [an era] where if my dad brings me to a game and at the end of the game it’s a 2-1 game and our team ties it up with 30 seconds left and the place is going crazy, isn’t that exciting? I’m good with that. And all of a sudden you settle it with a home run derby? It’s like soccer. How do you play 90 minutes, two extra times and all of a sudden you go to penalty kicks? And I guess that matters too; they’re going to say that’s part of the game.”