A funny thing happened after Minnesota beat Calgary in a shootout off a wicked wrister by Devin Setoguchi. Calgary Flames fans took to the Internet en masse to decry the selections in the coin flip by coach Brent Sutter. Justin Azevedo at Flames Nation claimed that the decisions made by Sutter lowered the Flames’ chances of winning.
What was the decision? In lieu of Alex Tanguay, Olli Jokinen or Mike Cammalleri in the shootout, Sutter instead, in his four, selected Matt Stajan, Lee Stempniak, Blair Jones and Blake Comeau. If you’ve heard of one of those players for any reason other then “he used to play in Toronto”, then all the credit to you. Not all of them would be regular NHLers on a good hockey team, and Sutter, for some strange reason, kept his best shooters from competing while sending the next mediocre Flames forward out on the ice to be stopped by Josh Harding.
Ryan Popilchak over at the Flames blog Matchsticks and Gasoline did the math on this one, citing the career shooting percentages of Tanguay and Jokinen to be superior to those of the skaters chosen over the course of their careers. “Given Stajan, Jones and Comeau’s limited lifetime attempts, we really can’t take much from their percentages,” he wrote, while calling for the most proven talent (players who shoot above 33% over 30 or so shots on goal) to take the shots in the games that really matter.
How did it stack up? Well, this is the lineup either team went with, along with the career percentages listed before the player’s shot. Now, we know that shootouts are generally pretty lucky, but there are some players who can slip through either way as really good or really bad and it shows over a large sample of shots.
Minnesota goals: Devin Setoguchi
Calgary goals: None
To the credit of the Minnesota Wild, their shootout lineup was almost in order exactly of their teams’ overall career shooting percentage leaders. Coach Mike Yeo, in a genius decision, forgot entirely about Setoguchi’s awful effort in Montreal, let him shoot, and increased that 31% rate to 36%, above average after 14 career shots now.
So Calgary made the worst decisions on the night, likely, and Minnesota probably made the best. Out of curiosity, since four games ended in shootouts on Thursday, decided to look back at every individual shootout to see which teams made the right decisions:
PHILADELPHIA FLYERS 2 @ WASHINGTON CAPITALS 1
Philadelphia goals: Matt Read, Wayne Simmonds
Washington goals: Matt Hendricks
Philadelphia have a number of good shootout performers, and most of them were used up tonight early by Peter Laviolette in a rare case of sanity among NHL coaches. Matt Read is up to 3-for-5 on his young career, while Claude Giroux and Danny Briere, the next two Flyers in shootout percentage coming in, both at 42%, shot 2nd and 3rd. Laviolette in the fourth had options of Simmonds (20% career) vs. Jaromir Jagr (22% career) or Jakub Voracek (23%) but went with Simmonds who has shot fewer times in his lifetime and less likely to be bad.
As for Washington, Dale Hunter was all over the map in this one. Matt Hendricks is now 6-for-10 career and showcasing fine ability (plus had a pretty solid move to fake out Ilya Bryzgalov) but his next three picks are completely suspect. While Alex Ovechkin had not shown in 62 shots that he was a reliable performer, clicking on just 32% of his tries, no other Capital other than Alex Semin (career 32%, identical to Ovechkin’s now) can really lay claim to boasting any sort of meaningful shootout performance. The Keith Aucoin pick, a chance to win for a rookie never having taken a shot, I’d say is pretty suspect while giving Troy Brouwer, 1 goal in 6 attempts, the lone shot to try the game rather than a proven scorer like Semin is very uninspired.
UPDATE: I’ve learned that Alex Semin was out last night with a lower-body injury, so there wasn’t much Dale Hunter could have done. That was very silly of me.
EDMONTON OILERS 2 @ TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING 3
Tampa Bay goals: Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Teddy Purcell
Edmonton goals: Sam Gagner, Ales Hemsky
What took me by surprise when looking at the Lightning numbers was that they didn’t have an active shooter over the 30% marker, so there wasn’t anything but guesswork to be done here. That Martin St. Louis had just 6 goals on 30 attempts coming into this one was absurd. Guy Boucher made the right calls except he didn’t put Vincent Lecavalier, career 12-for-49 and more career shootout goals than anybody else on the Lightning, in the game, but it didn’t cost the team. Really, there isn’t much Tampa has in the double extra session.
On Edmonton’s side, they made the mistake of leaving off Shawn Horcoff, a career 10-for-20, and instead giving a spot to Ryan Smyth, a proven non-shootout performer. Although if Edmonton were truly trying to tank, Smyth is the right choice, but they should have also left Ales Hemsky off the shooters list and gone with Eric Belanger, career 1-for-10.
ST. LOUIS BLUES 0 @ LOS ANGELES KINGS 1
|Los Angeles||G||Sh||%||St. Louis||G||Sh||%|
Los Angeles goals: Mike Richards, Jeff Carter
St. Louis goals: T.J. Oshie
Darryl Sutter continues to upset me by not playing Jarret Stoll, a career 15-for-31 for 48%, in this event. This is the third shootout I believe where he’s been left on the Kings bench, a man who is a shootout specialist almost by definition. Jeff Carter won the game, but coming in at just 14% career, Sutter wasn’t leaving just Stoll on the bench, but Anze Kopitar (38% in 58 career attempts). Sutter got away with one in my view, but he wasn’t so lucky earlier this year against the Phoenix Coyotes.
Ken Hitchcock’s most interesting decision was to go with Jaden Schwartz, the rookie out of Colorado College in his first ever NHL shootout, with a chance to win in the third round while Jamie Langenbrunner (39% in 33 shots) sat on the bench. We’re not too sure if the move ended up costing the St. Louis Blues a point, but Hitch had already exercised his options mostly of players tested in the shootout who were dressed for this game. T.J. Oshie is a spectacular shooter, and keeping him to go in Rounds 1 or 2 was a very good decision. Going with Chris Stewart for the tie is as good as anybody at that point, save Langenbrunner.