Winning extra points in shootouts might get the Calgary Flames into the NHL playoffs.
But if it comes down to a tie for the final spot, those very victories in the showdown could actually cost them a berth.
Only regulation and overtime wins count towards a team’s total for the tiebreaker this season — a new rule designed to force teams to try and score late in regulation or overtime rather than play it safe and head to a shootout to try and earn the extra point.
On the positive side, the Flames lead the NHL with seven shootout wins in 11 tries.
Winning four of six starting Dec. 23 has helped them erase a nine-point deficit.
And for now, they’ll take the points any way they can get them to keep climbing.
They’ll worry about where that leaves them at the end of the regular season.
“There’s too many things that will unfold till the end of the year for us to worry about that,” said Flames winger Alex Tanguay, whose six shootout goals are a league high, and three game-deciding shootout tallies have him tied with teammate Rene Bourque atop the NHL.
“We definitely control our own destiny now. It’s up to us to win those games and get ourselves in a position we want to be in.
“We’re feeling pretty good about our situation.”
Tanguay, Bourque and Olli Jokinen are head coach Brent Sutter’s go-to guys for the one-on-one battle with opposing goaltenders when the additional point is on the line.
Combined with the solid goaltending of Miikka Kiprusoff, that formula has worked pretty well this season.
Kiprusoff is tied with Nashville Predators’ Pekka Rinne with six shootout wins, after a battle of the Finnish netminders was won by Kipper in the shootout session Tuesday night.
Backup goalie Henrik Karlsson has the other showdown triumph for the Flames.
Even though participants suggest it’s a 50-50 proposition, studying definitely improves their chances.
“And they’re getting more confident,” said Flames captain Jarome Iginla. “Brent has stuck with a pretty similar rotation.”
It usually starts with Bourque, who honed his shootout skills with rolled-up socks in his basement growing up and moved on to the outdoor rink.
“I think your first couple ever are pretty nerve-wracking,” Bourque said of his development at the showdown at the NHL level.
“You second-guess yourself when you go down the ice. You plan what you’re going to do when you go down there, and then you abort it and just shoot or whatever. The more you go out, the more comfortable you get.”
As the first shooter out, Bourque scored the only goal in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout win over the Predators in Nashville.
“I like going early, and as a team shooting first,” Bourque said. “You put the pressure on the other team.”
Tanguay fell victim to bad ice Tuesday when he skated out of the area scraped by the ice-cleaning machine, but Bourque’s early goal definitely made his miss easier to swallow.
“It’s a little bit more nerve-wracking when the other team has scored and it’s a must-score situation,” Tanguay said. “But every time I get nervous, I don’t score, so really I try not to think about it.
“If you go down and you can hardly squeeze your stick because you’re so nervous, you’re not going to be successful. I think being relaxed is the key to having the most success.”
And they’re having plenty of it.
“Those points have been huge this year,” Tanguay said. “Giving ourselves a chance to get back in the standings.”
With any luck, they’ll climb high enough that the wins won’t ultimately cost them.