Shootout Woes Could Cost the Blues
This isn’t a debate whether you are in favor of the shootout or not. The shootout is part of the game as it currently stands which means it’s an aspect we will all have to deal with and accept. That being said, it’s an aspect of the game that the St. Louis Blues have been dreadful at – a fact that could prove costly when the season ends.
Following a shootout loss against Nashville on Friday night, the Blues fell to 0-5 in the shootout this season. Prior to the action on December 31st, the Blues are one of just three teams that have yet to win a shootout in 2011-12, the other two being the Carolina Hurricanes and the Philadelphia Flyers.
While the Blues rank tied for last in shootout victories, they rank tied for first with the Montreal Canadiens for most shootout losses.
This might not sound like a big deal, but let’s quickly put this in perspective. The five shootout losses on the year are five points squandered. Not only have the Blues failed to pick up the extra point but they have allowed other rivals within their own Conference to gain ground by failing to close out games. For example, Nashville was able to secure the final point against the Blues last night and as a result closed their gap behind the Blues in the standings to three points.
The dropped five points may not look like a big deal right now but when the season is in its final stretch the Blues failures in the shootout may come back to haunt them. Last season, the difference between 4th place in the Western Conference and 9th was just four points. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that each and every point is a critical one and the Blues inability to tack on points in the shootout could potentially be the difference between competing in the playoffs and watching from home.
Perhaps most troubling of all is how the Blues have approached the shootout and just how unsuccessful they have been.
The Blues have had 17 shootout attempts. One of those has found the back of the net. One. This comes to a success rate of 5.9%, a number that ranks 29th in the NHL ahead of just the Carolina Hurricanes and their 0-6 ratio, a percentage of 0%.
I’m not even going to cover the goaltenders in this scenario as I feel they have given the Blues a chance to win in the shootout. If you don’t score on your own opportunities it really doesn’t matter how many your own goaltender stops.
In all honestly, I haven’t seen every shootout the Blues have had this season as I, like any fan with other responsibilities, have had to miss games here and there. However, I have seen several of the team’s shootouts and I often find myself questioning the team’s approach. Between attempts that approach the net at a crawl, lacking any form of pace to attempts that are overly fancy while lacking any substance, there have been only a few attempts that I thought had any real shot of beating the keeper.
To be fair, at least two attempts I’ve seen have struck iron which I suppose we could classify as bad luck as opposed to poor approach, but the other attempts don’t garner the same sympathy. Several times the St. Louis skater has drifted in, made his move, only to miss the frame entirely. It doesn’t matter how well your move works when you can’t hit the net with your shot.
Every team works on the shootout in practice. The Blues are no different but perhaps they need to dedicate a bit more time in the area. Players typically find working on the shootout in practice enjoyable, so it really wouldn’t be a sore subject by having players run through some additional attempts as practice wraps up. I’d like to see certain players simplify their approach and others add some pace to their approach. I’ve always felt that unless you have a goaltender that bites early and dramatically, or a shooter with hands that are out of this world, speed is one of the keys to a successful shootout. Give the goaltender less time to react.
The obvious thought is that the Blues could just pick up their game and try to wrap things up in regulation but that’s not exactly a realistic thought. Shootouts will happens and the Blues need to be ready for them. If they can’t start tacking on extra points when they are presented this team might regret it come April.