Following Pittsburgh's shootout victory over the Canucks on Saturday night, a game in which Sidney Crosby was not only stopped by Roberto Luongo in the shootout, but also on an OT penalty shot, I started to reflect on Sidney's relatively poor track record in shootouts. I couldn't help but think that Michel Therrien might better serve the Pens by letting someone else take Sid's place in the shootout. This in turn led me to wonder how many other big name players are sent out in the shootouts by their coaches despite a lack of success. After going through the shootout stats since the start of the '06-'07 season, there is quite a list of big name players who have been disappointing in the shootout.
Some of the most prominent players are:
- Sidney Crosby - 6/20 (.300%)
- Alexander Ovechkin - 2/13 (.154%)
- Vincent Lecavalier - 3/14 (.214%)
- Henrik Zetterberg - 2/9 (.222%)
- Evgeni Malkin - 3/16 (.188%)
- Thomas Vanek - 2/11 (.181%)
- Patrick Elias - 2/11 (.181%)
The real question here is whether or not these players are helping their teams by taking part in the overtime shootouts. I recognize that there is pressure for a coach to send out a premier player like Crosby or Lecavalier, but at some point results have to start to come into play. If you look around the league, it isn't hard to find some "no name" players who have excelled at the shootout. Erik Christensen has been a revelation for Pittsburgh, going 11 for 18 in shootouts since the start of last season. Devils defensive specialist John Madden is a somewhat surprising (I think his offense is better than he gets credit for) 4 for 7 when participating in shootouts. And then there is the Wild's secret shootout weapon, defenseman Petteri Nummelin is a remarkable 8 for 9 in shootouts. Certainly these players help show that results count more than the name on the back of the jersey.
This isn't to say the stars should be given up on. For example, Anaheim center Andy McDonald was 1 for 10 in shootouts last season, but has converted both of his opportunities so far this season. I'm simply saying that coaches could probably secure a few extra points for their teams if they looked a little outside the box when putting together their shootout lineups. Would it hurt for the Penguins to try Kris Letang (2 for 2) in Crosby's usual 3 slot for a bit, or for the Canucks to make Trevor Linden (4 for 5) a regular shootout participant? It could mean a few extra points in the standings. And in today's NHL, that can be the difference between making the playoffs or golfing in April.