A few choice words about shootouts
I’ve developed a bad habit of shutting my eyes during shootouts. I’ve never been a fan of this high-anxiety tie-breaker – sudden-death overtime is scary enough. I think all devoted fans hate shootouts, and I’ll tell you why: they’re pretty much arbitrary.
According to nhlshootouts.com, out of the 54 shootouts they’ve had, the Caps have won 40.7 precent, making us sixth-worst in the league. The best team, Dallas, has won 63.1%. That means that pretty much everyone falls in the 50 percent range, also known as coin-toss territory. If you look at the teams with the lowest winning percentage, the list includes some teams who have struggled in recent years, but also the likes of Anaheim, Detroit, and Washington.
Still not convinced that shootouts are arbitrary? Soccer fans have complained about this random, unsatisfying end to tied matches for eons. Granted, penalty kicks in soccer are probably even more random, because the keeper goes one direction, and he either guessed right or he guessed wrong. In hockey, goalies get more time to read the shot, since shooters take the puck all the way from the blue line.
So what makes the Caps struggle with the shootout? Well, if you are inclined to agree with me that the shootout is arbitrary, then nothing contributes to our record except a little bad luck. But for the sake of entertainment, let’s look at a couple factors that cut against us.
Goaltending is obviously crucial here, and while the Caps have had a combination of young and more seasoned goaltenders since shootouts began, most folks would agree that it hasn’t been our strongest position. That being said, I thought Neuvirth was top notch in the shootout last night, proving once again that he has not only the technical skill, but also the nerve to make it in the NHL.
Well there’s only one factor in the shootout other than goalies, and that’s shooters. For a team as good as the Caps, with as many high-scoring players as we had last year, we do have a hard time picking out three reliable shooters.
Ovechkin’s lifetime shootout record is under 30 percent, but of course he’s not going anywhere as far as the shootout lineup is concerned. Semin is another shoe-in, and his jaw-dropping slapshot shootout goal last night was one of my all-time favorites. But who’s third? Last night it was Backstrom, but in my favorite shootout of last season, it was Mike Knuble. It tends to be anyone who’s on a roll, which isn’t a bad strategy but it doesn’t allow any of our guys to build expertise in this area.
In other words, the Caps aren’t putting a tremendous amount of thought or planning into the shootout, which is fine with me. Go with your gut. Send anybody. Send a backup goaltender or a recent call-up and make a splash, because the shootout was installed for entertainment value, not hockey value, so we may as well realize entertainment is all it’s good for.
| November 4, 2010; 3:33 PM ET
Categories: Capitals, Nicole Weissman | Tags: Capitals, Nicole Weissman
Save & Share: Previous: Maryland basketball preview: part 2
Next: Maryland-Miami preview: eliminating the "yea, but..."
Posted by: icehammer97 | November 4, 2010 9:00 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: dcsportsfan1 | November 5, 2010 9:25 AM | Report abuse