Last Monday, I wrote about how the New Jersey Devils performed in the shootout last season. It was a net positive but there remains some concerns with it going into next season. Regardless of how you feel about shootouts, they count in the standings. Do recall that the Devils made the playoffs by all of one point last season. A poor run at shootouts in 2018-19 could make a difference as to where the team finished by next April.
As for what those concerns are, the significant one is about the shooters. Who should be taking these attempts? Only Drew Stafford came into last season with a reasonable run of success at the shootout and he ended up leading the team with three successful attempts. Only four other Devils even scored in shootouts last season and none of them are known to be good shootout takers or not yet known to be good shootout takers (Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmieri) due to a lack of experience at them (Brian Boyle, Jesper Bratt). However, even that conclusion is just based on how successful they have been. It’s all about whether or not they scored. While that’s the most important thing, it does not tells us anything about what or how they took the attempt.
I think there could be something to that. It may at least partially explain why some Devils received more chances than others. Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri each have not been particularly prolific on the shootout, yet they had the most and third-most attempts on the team respectively (and each only converted two them). Was Hall and Palmieri doing something that made the coaches feel more confident in them than giving other forwards a chance? Similarly, Jesper Bratt scored one goal and received four other attempts. Yet, Nico Hischier only got two attempts. Was scoring one goal enough to give Bratt more of a chance than Hischier on shootouts?
To try and answer these questions and others, I want to break down the Devils’ shooting attempts in shootouts. Given that shootouts do count in the standings, they absolutely have value. While the population size will be small and varied, identifying how each player took their shot in the shootout may bring us closer to understanding why some players get more shots than others. The failures may clue us in more than the successes in that regard.
But before going through all of all nine shootouts the Devils took part in last season, I want to use a successful attempt to work out what should and should not be broken down. Arguably one of the sweetest moves of the season, even still remembered by the NHL Twitter account in July: Jesper Bratt’s slick move to beat Mike Condon on October 27. Here’s the video from NHL.com:
In the recap, I called Mike Condon a “highlight victim.” That’s a perfect term for what he is here. Let’s break it down.
General Information & Game Context
This is just general information about the game, the shootout situation, and the final result.
The Shooter: Jesper Bratt of the Devils
The Goaltender: Mike Condon, Ottawa
The Location: The Rock in Newark, New Jersey
The Date: October 27, 2018
The Shootout Situation: Top of Round 4, tied 1-1.
The # of Shootout for the Devils: Second overall, second at home
The Final Result of the Game: Devils win shootout, win 5-4.
I wonder whether a player performed particularly well or not in the game prior to the shootout has an impact. Did the shooter have a good game? Did the goalie put up a quality start? Have they been good, bad, or untested in shootouts so far in the season? For the purposes of context, I want to include those answers for each participant. I’m not sure what’s best to list for the shooter (Do we include CF% or SCF%? Game Score?), but save percentage for the goalie seems sensible. Stats are from the NHL.com.
Game Stats for Bratt: 16:28 of Ice Time, 1 Shot on Goal, 3 Shooting Attempts, 1 Assist
2017-18 Shootout Stats for Bratt Up Until This Attempt: 0-for-0, first attempt
Game Stats for Condon: 21 saves on 25 shots, 84% Save Percentage
2017-18 Shootout for Condon Up Until This Attempt: 1 Save, 3 Attempts, 1 Shootout Loss
In this shootout attempt, Bratt did not have a great night but he did get on the scoresheet and provided Condon one shot against. This slick move was Bratt’s first ever shootout attempt in this league, which only adds to the hype factor. Condon did not have a good night and did not do well in his one shootout
The Shootout Attempt Breakdown
This is the actual breakdown of the play. After watching the video multiple times, I identified the following:
The Shooter’s Approach: Inside right to center.
Inside refers to being inside the dots. If Bratt skated outside of the dot, I would say he went wide. Also, left and right here are with respect to the shooter. I want to know whether the attempt was head on or did the shooter buy some time by taking a longer route. Maybe he tried to make the goalie go lateral as he went lateral himself. In this case, Bratt went to his right but cut in to the center.
Motion of Shooter’s Approach: Smooth motion
This is to identify whether the shooter sped up or slowed down significantly. In this case, Bratt just went in and did not slow down too much at any point. I did not notice him picking up more speed.
The Shooter’s Move: Bratt went forehand on his left side and pulled it to his right on his backhand.
This is the description of what the shooter did. In the comments of the previous shootout post, longtime reader and commenter of substance dr(d)evil suggested that the Devils need to pick some moves and just keep working on them. To that end, I want to describe what move they actually did and I want to see if they kept doing it or not. And if they made no move, then that would be recorded. In this case, this describes what Bratt did to Condon.
Did the Goalie Take the Move?: Yes.
If a move is made, then did the goalie take it? If he does, then it may explain why there was a goal. Or if there was no goal, then we would know if the issue was really with the shooter or not. In this case, Condon totally took the move.
The Shot Type: Backhand shot.
I almost wanted to call this a carry-in as Bratt did not make a notable shooting motion. He went around Condon and just slid the puck in on his backhand. Your mileage may vary on what to call this one, but I do want to note how the puck was shot. (And if anyone does something silly like a slapshot.)
The Intended Target: Low, around the goalie’s left.
The shooter is trying to shoot at something. The 5-hole, over the glove, blocker-side, whatever. I want to record what the intent was in the shot. In this case, Bratt succeeded so it was easy: he went around the goalie’s left.
Goaltender Approach: Aggressive
I want to detail whether the goalie came out of his crease and made a challenge or whether he just followed the play and made a save, accordingly. The former would be aggressive, the latter would be conservative, and anything in the middle (e.g. coming out of crease but retreating upon engagement) would be balanced. Here, Condon went outside of his crease, stayed outside of his crease, and was beaten outside of his crease. He went aggressive and it failed the second Bratt pulled the puck back.
Shootout Result: Beat the goalie, the shooter scored.
In my opinion, there are four possible outcomes of a shootout attempt.
- Failed the attempt outright - The shooter did not beat the goalie or even hit the target. This would be for misses and lost pucks.
- Goalie stopped the attempt. - The shooter tried, they took a shot at goal, and the goalie stopped it. Maybe it was a routine save. Maybe it was a groin-straining Arturs-Irbe-styled split. Whatever it was, it was a save.
- Goalie was beat but shooter did not finish. - The shooter pulled off a move and had a legitimate chance to score - but the shot was not good enough or things went awry after the move. This is a huge difference from failing it outright because in order to score in a shootout, the goalie must be beaten - but there is no guarantee it will result in a goal.
- Goalie was beaten, the shooter scored. - Obvious.
In Bratt’s case, he definitely beat Condon and scored. He achieved the best possible outcome. I almost want to add a fifth outcome for a fluke goal. This would cover events where the goalie made a stop but somehow put the puck in his own net or something weird occurred. I figure those are so rare that I would only add it if I saw it several times.
This was no fluke. This was Jesper Bratt styling on Mike Condon that led to the Devils winning a shootout at the Rock. It furthered the notion at the time that Bratt belonged in the NHL. And that move certainly led to Bratt getting more attempts (which he didn’t score on).
I would identify these aspects of the shootout, regardless of success. It will detail what the shooter is doing. There is one aspect I would love to add but I’m not sure if it is really possible: what the shooter was looking at. I’m not sure where I heard it, but apparently, the eyes may give away what the shooter was trying to do. But I’m not confident that will be clear in the video. Sure, Bratt was looking at Condon and he made his cut-back to beat Condon’s attempt at a poke check. But was he looking at the stick? Did he really see light around Condon’s left or was the move made in the hopes that he would? I’m not sure.
It was still an awesome goal. We know that Bratt did not score on his next four attempts. Did he try the same move? Did he try something else? What was different? By breaking down those attempts (and those of other shooters) in a more descriptive way, we would know. Again, there’s a difference between Bratt missing entirely, Bratt getting stopped, and Bratt beating the goalie but not scoring. That may indicate whether he should be in line to continue getting attempts in 2018-19.
One more thing, I would do this sort of breakdown for the attempts against. That would at least show what Cory Schneider, who was good at shootouts last season, and Keith Kinkaid, who was not as good, had to deal with in 2017-18.
But is this the right way to break these attempts down? Is there something else to identify? Are there parts of of what I listed that do not matter so much? This is a work in progress so I would like your feedback before doing this for all 39 shooting attempts and 40 shooting attempts against the Devils. The results would come out later in this summer, which is the best time to these deep dives since, hey, it’s not like the Devils are making any big moves anytime soon. So please leave your feedback about this approach (and not about your feelings about how shootouts don’t belong; they’re here, they count, so deal with it) in the comments. Thank you for reading.