Why is it so difficult for one of the best teams in hockey to win a shootout?
David Pepin, Editor In Chief
Brad Marchand had an opportunity that every young hockey player dreams of: with the team relying on him to tie the game in a shootout and give them another chance to win. While he likely had visions of skating in close to goalie Carter Hart and deking around him for an easy goal, what actually happened to end the Boston Bruins January 13th matchup with the Philadelphia Flyers produced instant comedy at Marchand’s expense.
As Marchand horribly whiffed and skated past the puck at center ice, he secured the Bruins’ seventh shootout loss and 12th overtime loss this season, both the most of any team in the league. Who would have thought that the team with the league’s highest goal-scorer (David Pastrnak) would start the season 0-for-7 in shootouts.
The Bruins, who have the second most points in the league currently at the All-Star break, have a problem. This team has shown it can do anything… except win in a shootout.
For anyone wondering, the NHL record for most shootout losses in a season is 13 by the 2013-14 New Jersey Devils, who were 0-for-8 at this point in their season. They finished 0-for-13 in shootouts and missed the playoffs with 88 points. The record for most overtime losses is shared by four teams at 18, (2008-09 Lightning, 2011-12 Panthers, 2013-14 Devils, 2014-15 Flyers), all of whom missed the playoffs except for the 2011-12 Panthers who won their division with 94 points, but lost in the first round.
While the Bruins are on pace to put their name in the same conversation in terms of shootout and overtime losses, they are a very different team than any of the aforementioned. The Bruins already have 70 points, good enough for second most in the league behind only the Washington Capitals, who have 71.
The Bruins have a goal differential of +34, which is the third best in the league and the least amount of regulation losses in the league so they are clearly a very good team, but for whatever reason they just can’t win a shootout.
Maybe this is because the Bruins are just a much better team when they play as a team and can set up in a way that gives them lots of goal scoring opportunities. Maybe it is because their defense, which has helped the team enter a tie for the second best average goals against per game (2.51 GA/G), is really that much more of a difference maker.
It is most likely a combination of the two. The Bruins have a dynamic offense with Pastrnak emerging as the league’s most dangerous scorer. His line is arguably the best line in the league as well, with Patrice Bergeron and Marchand each being players capable of changing the game anytime they are on the ice. The three together are often called “the Perfection Line,” and most of the time, they do play perfect together.
The defense for the Bruins has been frustrating for opposing teams all season. Their young group of skilled defensemen led by captain Zdeno Chara don’t give up many easy shots, and even if an opposing player can get an open look, they still have to worry about the goaltending duo of Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. Both goalies have been playing well above average, and the team basically splits starts between the two (Rask-28, Halak-23). This allows the Bruins to plan for the playoffs early by giving Rask enough rest days so that he is healthy and fresh for the playoffs, because he is the real key to this team making another run for the Cup.
The Bruins are a really good team, and they are winning, so losing in the shootouts isn’t really as bad as it could be, since they are still getting a point for making it to overtime. However, losing all seven of your shootouts at this point in the season can bring some confidence down and it can be frustrating for both the fans and the players.
There is a silver lining to all of this though: no shootouts in the playoffs.