The Playoff Puzzle: Why Do They Not Play Shootout In Playoffs?

Benjamin Kenyon

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Not Play Shootout In Playoffs

The Stanley Cup playoffs are a spectacle of passion, determination, and pure hockey excellence. 

As the world’s top teams clash in pursuit of the sport’s ultimate prize, every game is a crucial battle, often stretching into dramatic overtime. 

However, there’s a significant absence in playoff hockey compared to the regular season: shootouts. 

In this blog post, we’ll delve into the intriguing reasons Why do they not play shootout in playoffs?

While shootouts offer a thrilling and decisive conclusion in the regular season, playoff hockey adheres to a different set of traditions, values, and expectations. 

The dynamics and significance of this playoff tradition sheds light on why the shootout takes a backseat when the Stanley Cup is on the line. So, stay focused. 

Not Play Shootout In Playoffs

What Is Shootout In Playoffs Hockey?

In playoff hockey, a shootout is a tiebreaker method used to determine the winner of a game that remains tied after overtime periods. 

Unlike the regular season in professional hockey leagues, where games can end in a tie (or a draw), playoff games are typically required to have a winner in order to advance in the tournament.

Here’s how a shootout works in playoff hockey:

Overtime Periods

In playoff hockey, the game first goes into sudden-death overtime periods after the regulation time (usually three 20-minute periods) has ended. 

Sudden death means that the first team to score a goal during overtime wins the game.

No Resolution

If no team scores during the overtime periods, the game remains tied. Since there must be a winner in the playoffs, the shootout is used as a last resort to determine the winner.


In a shootout, each team selects a predetermined number of players (usually three) to take penalty shots against the opposing team’s goaltender. The order in which players shoot is decided by the coach or team captain.

Penalty Shots

Each player taking a penalty shot has a limited amount of time to attempt a shot on goal, usually around 5-10 seconds. They start from a designated spot, skate towards the opposing goaltender, and try to score a goal.

Determining the Winner

After each team has taken its allotted number of shots, the team with the most goals in the shootout is declared the winner of the game. 

If the shootout is still tied after all the shots have been taken, the teams continue to take shots in a sudden-death format until one team scores and the other does not.

The shootout is often seen as an exciting but somewhat controversial way to determine the winner of a hockey game, especially in the playoffs, where the stakes are high.

The Intensity of Playoff Hockey?

The Intensity of Playoff Hockey

The intensity of playoff hockey is widely recognized as one of the most exhilarating and passionate experiences in the world of sports. Several factors contribute to the heightened intensity of playoff hockey:

High Stakes

Playoff hockey represents the culmination of an entire season’s worth of effort, with teams competing for the ultimate prize, usually the Stanley Cup in the NHL. 

The pressure to win and the desire to claim the championship create a sense of urgency and importance that is unmatched in the regular season.

Win or Go Home

In most playoff formats, it’s a “win or go home” situation. If a team loses a playoff series, their season is over. 

This do-or-die aspect adds significant pressure and intensity to every game, as players and teams give their all to extend their postseason run.

Physical Play

Playoff hockey often sees an increase in physicality and intensity. Players are willing to sacrifice their bodies, block shots, deliver big hits, and battle along the boards to gain an advantage for their team. 

The physical nature of the game becomes even more pronounced as teams vie for victory.

Tight Defensive Play

Playoff hockey tends to feature tighter defensive structures and more disciplined play. Teams are less likely to take risks, and defensive systems are emphasized to prevent goals. 

This results in low-scoring, closely contested games, which can increase the tension and intensity.


Playoff series often involve long-standing rivalries between teams, which can amplify the intensity. 

The history and animosity between teams add emotional layers to the competition, fueling players’ desire to win and fans’ passion for their respective teams.

Electric Atmosphere

Playoff arenas are known for their electric atmospheres. The fans are more fervent, creating a wall of noise and support for their team. 

The “whiteout” or “sea of red” in the stands of some arenas during playoff games is a testament to the intensity and dedication of hockey fans.

Heroic Performances

Playoff hockey often produces heroic performances by individual players. 

Whether it’s a goaltender making a series of incredible saves, a forward scoring a clutch goal, or a defenseman blocking crucial shots, these moments of individual brilliance add to the drama and intensity of the playoffs.

Overtime Drama

Sudden-death overtime periods in playoff hockey are incredibly tense. Every shot, every save, and every scoring opportunity becomes a potential game-winner. 

Overtime games can stretch on for extended periods, creating edge-of-your-seat excitement.

All of these factors combine to make playoff hockey a unique and intense sporting experience.

Why Do They Not Play Shootout In Playoffs?

Playoff hockey does not use a shootout to determine the winner of games for several reasons:

Tradition and Prestige

The playoffs are considered the most prestigious part of the hockey season, with the ultimate goal being to win the championship (e.g., the Stanley Cup in the NHL). 

Traditionalists argue that determining a playoff game’s outcome with a shootout, which is a relatively recent addition to the sport, diminishes the prestige of playoff hockey.

Extended Overtime Periods

In the playoffs, the emphasis is on finding a winner through extended overtime periods rather than a shootout. 

Playoff games can feature multiple sudden-death overtime periods, where the intensity and drama of the game continue to build until a goal is scored. 

This approach is seen as a more fitting way to determine a winner in the postseason.

Greater Tolerance for Overtime

Fans and players have a higher tolerance for longer games in the playoffs. 

Overtime periods in playoff hockey are seen as epic battles, and the suspense of a long overtime game can be a defining moment of a postseason run. 

In contrast, a shootout is often viewed as a more arbitrary way to decide a game.

Teamwork and Skill

The playoffs are an opportunity for teams to showcase their skill, teamwork, and determination. 

A shootout focuses more on individual skills, particularly the skills of the goaltender and shooters, and may not reflect the overall performance of the team during the game.

Different Playoff Format

The playoff format itself is different from the regular season. In the playoffs, teams compete in a series of games and winning a series requires a team to win a majority of those games. 

This format allows for adjustments, strategies, and momentum to develop over the course of a series, making the shootout less relevant.

Elimination Format

Playoff series in hockey often use a “best-of-seven” format, where the first team to win four games advances to the next round. 

Using a shootout to determine the winner of any individual game within the series could create a disconnect with the overall series format and potentially reduce the impact of individual games.

Playoff hockey maintains its tradition of finding a winner through extended overtime periods rather than a shootout because it is considered a more fitting and prestigious way to determine the outcome of games in the postseason.

Reasons Behind the Absence of Shootouts in Playoff Hockey

Reasons Behind the Absence of Shootouts in Playoff Hockey

The absence of shootouts in playoff hockey is due to several key reasons:

Tradition and Prestige

Playoff hockey is steeped in tradition and considered the most prestigious part of the season. 

Hockey purists argue that deciding playoff games with a shootout, a relatively recent addition to the sport would diminish the prestige and historical significance of the playoffs.

Extended Overtime Periods

In playoff hockey, the primary method for determining a winner is through extended sudden-death overtime periods. 

These overtime periods can be incredibly dramatic and are seen as a more fitting way to conclude a postseason game. 

The suspense and intensity of a long overtime game are considered an integral part of the playoff experience.

Greater Tolerance for Overtime

Playoff games often feature longer overtime periods, and fans and players have a higher tolerance for extended gameplay in the postseason. 

Overtime games are seen as epic battles, and the tension that builds as the game goes on adds to the drama of playoff hockey.

Team Focus

The playoffs emphasize team play, strategy, and determination. 

Deciding games with a shootout puts more emphasis on individual skills, particularly those of the goaltender and shooters, and may not reflect the overall performance and teamwork that are crucial in the playoffs.

Different Playoff Format

Playoff series in hockey typically follow a “best-of-seven” format, where the first team to win four games in the series advances to the next round. 

Using a shootout to determine the outcome of individual games within a series could disrupt the overall series format and reduce the importance of individual games in the series.

Elimination Format

Playoff series in hockey often lead to elimination, with teams competing in a series until one team advances and the other is eliminated. 

The “win or go home” aspect of the playoffs means that teams and players are willing to endure extended overtime periods to secure victory.

Historic Significance

Many memorable moments in hockey history have occurred during playoff overtime periods, and these moments are an integral part of the sport’s lore. 

Using a shootout to decide playoff games would rob fans of the chance to witness such historic moments.

The absence of shootouts in playoff hockey is a conscious choice made to preserve the traditions and the unique character of postseason play.

Purpose of the Shootout in the NHL Regular Season

Purpose of the Shootout in the NHL Regular Season

The shootout in the NHL regular season serves several purposes:

Determining a Winner

The primary purpose of the shootout is to determine a winner in regular-season games that are tied after regulation time (three 20-minute periods) and a five-minute overtime period. 

Unlike playoff games, which can end in ties during the regular season, NHL regular-season games must have a winner. The shootout provides a clear and quick way to achieve this.

Fan Entertainment

Shootouts are exciting and provide a thrilling conclusion to games. The one-on-one showdown between a shooter and a goaltender adds a dramatic element to the game that fans enjoy. 

Shootouts often produce highlight-reel goals and spectacular saves, making them entertaining for spectators.

Player and Team Statistics

Shootouts contribute to player and team statistics. Players are credited with shootout goals and assists, and goaltenders receive statistics related to shootout saves and goals allowed. 

These statistics can impact player contracts, awards, and career records.

Playoff Implications

In the NHL, points earned in the regular season (including those obtained in shootouts) determine a team’s standings and playoff eligibility. 

Shootout wins can be crucial for teams competing for playoff spots or seeding, so they can have significant implications for the postseason.

Reducing Overtime Fatigue

The introduction of the shootout helps reduce the physical toll on players during the regular season. 

Overtime periods can be physically demanding, and playing multiple overtime games in a short span can lead to player fatigue and potential injuries. 

The shootout provides a quick resolution, reducing the risk of overtaxing players during the regular season.

Enhancing the Spectacle

The shootout adds an element of excitement to the game, particularly for fans watching live or on television.

It creates memorable moments and highlights individual skills, contributing to the overall appeal of the NHL product.

While the shootout has its critics and is not used in playoff hockey, it serves as an effective tiebreaker and a source of entertainment during the NHL regular season. 

The Different Playoff Overtime Rules

Playoff overtime rules in the NHL (National Hockey League) are different from regular-season overtime rules, and they are designed to ensure that a winner is determined in postseason games. 

Here are the key differences and rules for playoff overtime:

Sudden Death

Playoff overtime is played in a sudden-death format, meaning that the first team to score a goal wins the game. There are no shootouts in the playoffs; the game continues until a goal is scored.

Overtime Period Length

Playoff overtime periods are 20 minutes in duration, compared to the regular season, where overtime periods are 5 minutes long. 

Teams switch ends of the ice for each overtime period to account for any potential ice conditions or other factors that could affect the game’s fairness.


There is a short intermission between each playoff overtime period, typically lasting around 15 minutes. 

During this intermission, teams have the opportunity to regroup, make adjustments, and rest before the next overtime period.

Continuous Overtime

Playoff games can extend into multiple overtime periods until a goal is scored. There is no limit to the number of overtime periods that can be played, and games can become quite lengthy. 

Some of the most memorable moments in hockey history have occurred in multiple overtime playoff games.

3-on-3 Play and Shootouts

The 3-on-3 overtime format used in the regular season is not employed in the playoffs. 

Instead, playoff overtime maintains traditional 5-on-5 play throughout each sudden-death period until a goal is scored. As mentioned earlier, there are no shootouts in playoff hockey.

Line Changes

Teams can make line changes on the fly during playoff overtime, just as they do in regulation time. There are no limitations on line changes.

Special Teams

Penalties and power plays continue to apply in playoff overtime. If a team is on a power play when regulation time expires, they will start the overtime period with the man advantage. 

Conversely, if a team is shorthanded, they will be required to kill the penalty in overtime.

Golden Goal

When a goal is scored in playoff overtime, the game ends immediately, and the scoring team is declared the winner. There is no need for further play or additional time on the clock.

Playoff overtime in the NHL is known for its intensity, drama, and memorable moments. 

The format ensures that games have a clear winner, even if it takes multiple overtime periods to determine that winner. This adds to the excitement and prestige of playoff hockey.


Why are shootouts not used in playoff hockey?

Playoff hockey avoids shootouts to maintain tradition and prestige. It prioritizes extended sudden-death overtime periods, emphasizing teamwork and drama. 

Unlike the regular season, playoffs demand a clear winner without the shootout’s individual skill focus.

Do other sports use shootouts in playoffs?

Many sports, such as soccer, use shootouts in their playoffs. However, hockey playoffs maintain the tradition of prolonged overtime periods, valuing team performance and avoiding shootouts to decide games.

Why not use shootouts to prevent marathon playoff games?

Marathon playoff games are celebrated for their drama and intensity. Fans and players embrace the challenge. 

The absence of shootouts ensures that the winner is decided on the ice through team effort and determination.

What happens if a playoff game goes into multiple overtime?

Playoff games can have multiple overtime periods until a sudden-death goal decides the winner. 

These epic battles are part of the playoff experience, producing unforgettable moments and adding to the sport’s rich history.

Could shootouts improve the excitement of playoff hockey?

While shootouts are thrilling, playoff hockey’s charm lies in its extended over time and the importance of each moment. 

Shootouts prioritize individual skills, while playoffs celebrate teamwork, strategy, and the battle for supremacy in a way that no other format can match.

Wrapping Up

In the quest for the Stanley Cup, every moment, every shift, and every goal carries immense weight. 

The absence of shootouts in playoff hockey underscores the unique character and tradition of this cherished tournament. 

While shootouts bring excitement and closure to regular-season games, the playoffs demand extended overtime, team-focused play, and a determination to prevail, ultimately deciding games through sudden-death goals. 

As we celebrate the intensity of playoff hockey, we also appreciate the deliberate choice to preserve the essence of the sport in its most prestigious and riveting form, without the shootout’s final say. Thank you. 

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Benjamin Kenyon

With over eight years of experience in higher education, I bring a diverse skill set to the Head Men's Ice Hockey Coach role. My background spans collegiate hockey coaching, recruiting, compliance, budget management, game operations, public and media relations, marketing strategies, content development, social media management, press release distribution, broadcasting, video production, non-linear editing, sports photography, interpersonal communications, sports writing, interviewing, sports analytics, and statistics. My educational credentials include a Master of Arts in Sports Management, further enhancing my qualifications for this position. I am proficient in various software and platforms, including Adobe Creative Suite, social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, LinkedIn), and academic management systems (Salesforce, CAMS, Workday, Banner). My extensive experience and technical proficiency make me a well-rounded candidate for leading the men's ice hockey program.

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