With playoff races being tighter than ever, every point is vital down the stretch. Pulling out wins in overtime and the shootout can be the difference between golfing and Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A lot of fans like the shootout purely based on entertainment value, but often overlook the impact those points have over an 82 game season.
For example, the New Jersey Devils managed to lose all thirteen shootouts they had last season. The team finished in the tenth position within the East, and was 5 points back from a three way tie for the final position in the playoffs. Hypothetically, if the Devils won just 5 of their thirteen shootouts, they would have tied both Columbus and Detroit at 93 points. With those 5 wins, they would have reached 40 wins total which is just one win more than the Red Wings. If this were the case, the Devils would have bumped the Red Wings into 9th and took over the final playoff spot. Not only do these losses kill you chances of making the playoffs, but the psychological effects on the team can be demoralizing over an 82 game season.
Nashville too, fell victim to shootout woes last season. They won just two of eleven shootouts, and fell short of the playoffs by three points. Just like the Devils, just a few shootouts were the difference between a playoff berth and an early exit from the 2013-14 season. Moving forward, I am sure many teams will focus much more heavily on this area of the game. It has become a prominent aspect of the NHL, and will be for years. The anticipation and excitement for fans is overwhelming, which makes it one of the most most exciting elements of today's game. Individual players are allowed to showcase their talents' in a one-on-one situation which rarely occurs during a regular 60 minute game.