Unless you were under a rock Saturday night, you witnessed a stunning comeback by the Phoenix Coyotes in the final few minutes of the 3rd period against the Washington Capitals. Lost in the excitement over the two goals in the dwindling moments of the 3rd was the two relatively easy shootout goals the Coyotes scored after OT. Regardless of your feelings about the skills competition, the shootout has been rather kind to the Coyotes in recent years.
The gold standard for the Coyotes, and quite possibly for the league in general, was the 2009-10 season, the first under Dave Tippett. Phoenix won a staggering 14 games in the shootout that year. The Desert Dogs also had three shooters in the top 10 of the league in shootout goals.
While most people remember Adrian Aucoin's six game deciding shootout goals, Phoenix also got help from Radim Vrbata, who led the league in goals with eight. Lauri Korpikoski contributed seven shootout goals to the Coyotes' total. The name that may surprise Coyotes fans when it comes to shootout success that season was Robert Lang. Lang contributed five goals and two game winners, despite missing the final 17 games of the regular season due to a lower body injury.
This season, the Coyotes are 4-1 when 65 minutes aren't enough, tied with Los Angeles and Washington for the most wins in the league. Vrbata continues his ascent up the all time leader board with three goals this year. Antoine Vermette also has three goals, all of which were game winners. The Coyotes' other game deciding goal belongs to Mikkel Boedker, who has a pair of shootout goals this season.
It is better to win in regulation than it is in the shootout, but hockey is very much a game of inches and a game of individual points. Phoenix scraped into the playoffs in 2012 by just one point. Similarly, they missed the playoffs last season by just four points. Last year, Phoenix lost five games in the shootout. Had they won all five, the Coyotes would have finished the season tied for 7th in the West. So consistently earning points in the shootout is vitally important to surviving in a stacked Pacific Division and a tight Western Conference.