The Overtime-shootout blues

The Oilers stayed in the playoff race last season due to their dominance in overtime and the shootout. They were 19–6 combined when reaching the 4th period (4–2) and into the breakaway drill (15–4).

It will be near impossible to match those totals—Atlanta had the second most wins in the SO with nine—but the bigger concern is that the Oilers went to overtime and beyond 25 times last year. Thirty per cent of their games went to extra time. But what should be more concerning to MacTavish and his players, is that the Oilers surrendered the lead in 15 of those games.

Ten times the opposition tied the game with 5:16 remaining or less.

  1. Game #1 (H): Sharks’ Joe Thornton ties it with 0:11 to go. Stoll wins it in shootout.
  2. Game #28 (R): Kings’ Ladislav Nagy ties it with 1:28 to go. Gagner wins it in shootout.
  3. Game #33 (R): Wings’ Zetterberg ties it with 2:40 to go. Hemsky wins it in shootout.
  4. Game #34 (H): Canucks’ Ohlund ties it with 1:22 to go. Pisani wins it in shootout.
  5. Game#39 (R)” Wild’s Burns ties it with 5:16 to go. Nummelin scores winner in OT.
    The Oilers gave up a three goal lead in this loss.
  6. Game #43 (H): Rangers’ Drury ties it with 0:07 to go. Gagner wins it in shootout.
  7. Game #66 (H): Jackets’ Tarnstrom ties it with 2:39 to go. Hemsky wins it in shootout.
  8. Game #68 (R): Jackets’ Fritsche ties it with 0:01 to go. Cogliano scores winner in OT.
  9. Game #69 (R): Hawks’ Byfuglien ties it with 4:35 to go. Cogliano scores winner in OT.
  10. Game#79 (R): Avs’ Sakic ties it with 0:06 to go. Sakic wins it in shootout.

Out of the 25 games that went to OT and beyond, only six times did the Oilers come from behind. Four games were tied from the first period on, so I didn’t include them in either category. Because the Oilers were so good in the SO and OT they didn’t lose many points, but by surrendering the lead 15 times, they gave the opposition an extra point.

The Oilers have repeated this trend twice already in the pre-season. Vancouver tied it with 5:17 to go, while Florida came back with only 1:42 to send it to OT. Horcoff’s line was on the ice versus Van, while the Kids were on versus the Panthers.  I understand it’s pre-season, but this trend has spanned over a year so the players need to be aware of it.

If the Oilers hope to contend for the division, they have to become better at putting teams away and protecting leads. They can’t expect to be as good in the SO, but if they become better at holding onto a lead, then they won’t need to rely on their SO success.

This team needs to become mentally tougher playing with a lead, or once again they will find themselves scratching and clawing just to get to the playoffs.

—You can hear Gregor weekdays from 3 to 6pm on the Team 1260 Edmonton Sports Radio, or listen online at

  • MattL


    Even though this list is a like a highlight reel of all my nightmares last year, I'm glad you posted this. Every time someone argues that the Oilers didn't deserve as many wins as they had by season's end (due to shootout success), I shudder. Not to sound like Craig Simpson, but the team who puts the most pucks in the net wins, plain and simple. Maybe this year they don't win as many shootouts, but maybe they don't blow as many last minute leads. Who knows?

    The fact that they won a pile of shootouts isn't a cause for concern necessarily. All the blown leads might be, but I don't think you can really predict how this year will go in either respect. That's why they play the games. When Dallas kept winning shootouts, nobody said they'd be in for a fall, people just said they were really good at shootouts. For all we know, the Oilers could just really good at shootouts, and really bad at holding a lead. And what hockey fan without a heart condition could complain about that?

  • CCR

    I think the blown lead issue is very indicitive of how young and inexperienced this team was last year. Every really good team learns from their failures. This year will tell whether the team learned from all the blown leads, and plays to win instead of playing not to lose. Here's to hoping they did.