Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews has scored on five of his eight shootout attempts this season — including Saturday night against the Panthers — to become the NHL’s all-time leader in shootout goals with 50.
But he’s still fully in favor of extending the preceding 3-on-3 overtime period from five to 10 minutes, which would make the shootout far less relevant.
“The shootout — we can end it. I can be the all-time leader and that’ll be it,” he said Tuesday to a chorus of laughter. “We’ll turn the page on that. I like 3-on-3 as well.”
Toews was at least partially joking there. But he really does believe in the cause.
“Eventually, someone’s going to score in 3-on-3 . . . so that’s a good way to finish it,” he said. “Fans like watching that, too. Some nights, you play a great game, you can’t find a way to score 3-on-3, you lose in a shootout and you feel like you should have won the game. So that’s the only thing I would change.”
Also serious about it is Toews’ shootout partner-in-crime, Patrick Kane, who also scored Saturday to improve to 6-for-8 on the season and remain in third place all-time.
“We probably have a pretty good record in the shootout,” Kane said. “But as a player, it’s fun to play in the 3-on-3 setting, play in overtime. It’s entertaining for the fans, too. Even for myself, if I’m at home watching hockey, I’ll turn on the games that are going into overtime. It’d be fun to see the games go a little bit longer.”
Kane is right that the Hawks do have a strong shootout record over the years. They’re 56-41 dating to 2009, and after starting this season 0-3 while goalie Robin Lehner worked through his shootout struggles, they’ve rallied to 4-4 with three straight wins.
The way those wins — all on the road — occurred is especially impressive. Kane and Toews both scored in three straight, and the Hawks ended all three contests before even needing their unidentified third shooter.
The goals have also all been beautiful, whether it was dismissing fresh-off-the-bench Elvis Merzlikins in Columbus, denting Antti Raanta’s incredible night in Arizona or burrowing through Sergei Bobrovsky’s five-hole in Florida. All three games being on the road, with the home crowds raining down boos, made Toews and Kane seem like even icier killers.
“[It’s] nothing technical, really,” Toews said, adding he only sometimes decides his move before touching the puck. “It’s just bearing down and having that confidence that you can try and make the goaltender bite on something, or make him think you’re doing one thing [but] do another. It just comes with experience. And the more you score, the more confident you get.”
The Red Wings’ Frans Nielsen entered the season No. 1 all-time with a 49-for-104 career shootout record, but he’s 0-for-1 this season. Toews is up to 50-for-101, while Kane stands at 47-for-110.
In terms of efficiency, fourth-place T.J. Oshie of the Capitals (45-for-86, 52 percent) and 19th-place Tyler Seguin of the Stars (30-for-60, 50 percent) are among those who have Toews and Kane barely beat, but that’s a short list.
A 10-minute overtime would push shootouts to the far periphery of the NHL. The number of games ending in shootouts fell from 170 to 107 when 3-on-3 was introduced in 2015-16; this season is on pace for 102. Doubling the length of overtime would theoretically halve that again, down to 50 or so.
Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton said Tuesday he also would support such a change: “It would be fun. Obviously, everyone loves the five-minute 3-on-3.”
Seemingly no one — not even those best taking advantage of them — would be sad to see shootouts die.