Last week, I started to put out what I found from reviewing every single shootout attempt by the New Jersey Devils last season. Seeing that the Devils went 5-4 in shootouts last season on top of ultimately making the playoffs by a point, shootouts being a net positive ended up having some value. For the Devils to put themselves in a better position for 2018-19, it would be ideal for shootouts to remain as points gained over points lost in the standings. Unless Drew Stafford is coming back, it’s not clear who should be taking them. So I decided to go into more detail by re-watching every attempt to figure out what the Devils should do. In Part 1, I focused on the play of the goaltenders. In Part 2, I focused on the shooters as a group. In this post, Part 3, the focus will be on each and every one of the 39 attempts taken by the 12 different Devils from last season. Let’s get into it and at least come away with an idea of whether these players should be taking shootouts in 2018-19.
Let’s begin with the five Devils who all had only one shootout attempt last season. All five them got their opportunity in the eleven-round shootout loss against Boston from November 21. As shown in Part 2 of this breakdown, productive nights from these players did not lead to more opportunities before or after this game so it appears that John Hynes only went with them because the team just needed someone. Granted, none of these five players scored against Anton Khudobin; but maybe they shown something for the future? (Note: Left and right are the shooter’s left and right.)
Well, Adam Henrique was traded not long after this game so it does not matter if he does. His one attempt did not even happen. He skated up to the slot and lost the puck on his deke, which did not fool Khudobin at all. Seriously, I watched the broadcast replay and the puck just slid away. As for the rest, there’s a little promise here.
Pavel Zacha did make a move that forced Khudobin to make a move of his own. Zacha’s deke forced the goaltender to be aggressive and go for a pokecheck with his stick. It appeared to disrupt the deke such that Zacha could not collect it on his backhand, but it wasn’t a clean save either. Had he got less of it, Zacha would have had Khudobin out with the left side of the net to shoot at. Given that was Zacha’s second shootout attempt ever, it was not a bad effort. Maybe if he came in a little slower or changed his pace to throw off the goalie, it could have worked. But Zacha did not come in a botch the deke or just have it easily knocked away.
Severson showed even more with a move that actually put Khudobin in a tough spot. He completed his forehand-to-backhand deke as he went to the left post. It was quick and clean. He even threw in a head fake when approaching with his forehand (which I forgot to record here, sorry). While the goalie was stretched out to his right, there was a hole to shoot at. Unfortunately, Severson caught the puck on his backhand towards the toe of the blade. Instead of angling the puck past Khudobin’s right skate, the puck went straight ahead - missing the net. It was not an easy play to finish, but it was possible. And given that it was in the 10th round of the shootout, it makes it a little more impressive to get daylight on a goalie that was running hot after conceding on his first shot. Severson is 0-for-3 lifetime at shootouts.
The attempts by Will Butcher and Travis Zajac were less impressive. Butcher nearly lost the puck as he approached the goalie. He did recover it on his forehand, taking an extra touch. Butcher then just shot it high. Maybe he had a move in mind but needing to re-collect the puck had him just go to Plan B - just shooting it. It was a good looking shot. It led to a flashy glove save by Khudobin. It did not really make me think that Butcher should really be used unless the shootout goes long and there are few other choices. Zajac is someone who has been ice cold for years at the shootout. His last shootout goal was in 2013 and he’s 0-for-9 since that season. Amazingly, his 6-for-28 career record yields a “shooting” percentage of 21.4% - which is fourth in that category among current Devils on the roster and not far behind Hall (3-for-11) and Palmieri (2-for-7). Another reason why I’m doing all of this. Anyway, Zajac tried to go five-hole on Khudobin and it did not work. Just skating up and trying to catch a goalie low through the legs requires a quick release and Zajac did not have it. While I respect the history, there’s a good chance Zajac does not get an attempt in 2018-19 and I would respect that.
In summary: Zacha and Severson being used as a fifth or sixth shooter (or later) may be viable options. They would have to show something great or the roster would have to be depleted before they would get an attempt among the top-three. If they start busting out moves in practice that keep working, then a later attempt in a longer shootout would not be a bad idea to further see what you have. Butcher and Zajac should only be used if the shootout really goes long and maybe not even then.
As with before, except these two Devils had two attempts at shootouts. One is no longer a Devil, so it is somewhat moot to consider how he did for the future. The other is hopefully a Devil for a very long time, so it is very relevant to see how he did for the future.
Nico Hischier went second on October 27 for his first ever shootout attempt. He skated fast, slowed down on purpose as he entered the the slot, went to his backhand, and missed the net. Mike Condon did not appear to be fazed by it. It was not that good of a move. Later in that shootout, Jesper Bratt dazzled the crowd, burnt Condon, and helped win the shootout with a very slick move. Bratt got more attempts, Hischier was relegated to depth status. On November 22, Hischier got another chance to shine. Instead, he skated down the middle of the rink, pulled the puck back as if he was going to do something, and Khudobin simply went down in a butterfly and poked the puck away simply. There was no shot. There was nothing lost by Hischier; the goalie just denied him from even trying. The rookie showed quite a lot of skill in the run of play in 2017-18; but he did not show really any of it in the shootout. Hence, he did not receive another chance.
On the opposite end, Brian Gibbons went from primary AHL signing to NHL player who scored an impressive amount of goals to start last season. This translated to at least being considered on shootouts. His first chance was in that long shootout against Boston where he came in fast and, well, just took a shot to try and beat Khudobin low. That did not work. For reasons I’m not sure about, he got a second attempt in a must-score fifth round against the Isles on January 7. He got it ahead of Hischier, which was telling in retrospect. He also got it ahead of Zajac, who scored two goals in that same game, so that suggests to me that Gibbons is in that 5/6/7 spot among shooters. Stafford didn’t play in that game, so that helped Gibbons being selected too. Anyway, Gibbons went the opposite from his first try. He went to his right instead of his left. He went slow instead of fast. He still took a shot, but it was better as it got past Jaroslav Halak. It did not beat the post. The Devils lost the shootout with that sound of metal. With the lack of moves, Gibbons was a bit closer to scoring but was just as unsuccessful as Hischier.
Since Gibbons is now with Anaheim, the only one to really think about here is Hischier. Due to his age and his skillset, I would think he’ll get a couple of more tries here and there. Maybe not in the top three right away; but as a fourth or fifth shooter in a longer series. I will say that based on their cameos in the shootout this season, I have more confidence in Zacha and Severson being given another chance over Hischier. At least their moves made sense and possibly would have been effective on a different night against a different goalie. Hischier really did not show any sign of either in his attempts. Since Hischier has done well elsewhere in his game, this could be one of the things he would have to really focus on improving to continue to provide value to the team. The good thing is that he will very likely contribute a lot even if he turns out to be a “meh” shootout take like the Devils’ best forward.
The Departed (And Still Available) Drew Stafford
The New Jersey Devils either let players go to market or were unable to retain the majority of their unrestricted free agents. One is still available as of this writing: Drew Stafford. As noted in Part 2, Stafford took part in every shootout that he could be able to play in. He was always among the Devils’ top three shooters, usually shooting third. Even if he did nothing on the scoresheet for tenminutes, Stafford still had a go. Stafford went 3-for-7, two of those goals were important for two of their five shootout wins, and no other Devil even scored three shootout goals last season. At least there was that. But what about him made him successful?
Stafford definitely had a tendency to go to his left on his approaches. Stafford rarely rushed forward; the one time he did, it was after starting off at a slow pace. Stafford has always been known for having a good wrist shot. He also had one move he preferred. After failing to beat Peter Budaj by shooting against the grain as he moved into the slot, Stafford utilized a really tricky deke for his next three attempts. He skated in from the left, he would get towards the crease showing the puck on his forehand on his right, and then cut it left to put it on his backhand. Mike Condon and Mike Smith bit on those moves and Stafford was able to lift the puck to beat both. Lifting the puck on his backhand is hard to do but he made it look easy. Alas, Khudobin and Jusse Saros - who got a head fake before the deke - did not take the move and they were able to deny Stafford. Even then, he was able to get some air under the puck as the goalie covered the post. Still, four out of seven attempts featured that one good move. Just as importantly, Stafford got his shot off on each and put it on target. It was a move that worked to a degree and it was a move Stafford was comfortable in pulling off.
I do not know why Stafford did not go with that for Henrik Lundqvist or Michal Neuvirth. All of the goalies the Devils faced in shootouts this season had their gloves on their left hands, so it was not like they could glove down that backhand deke to his left. In those attempts, he came in and just tried to beat the goalie five-hole with a wrist shot. Perhaps he got word that both goalies preferred the butterfly stance and so he figured he could slide the puck past them before they would get their stick or legs down. It didn’t work for Lundqvist; the shot was off-target too - it hit the upper part of Lundqvist’s left pad. He did something similar for Neuvirth and he was able to get the puck past him in time. Again, his shot release is an asset in his game so it’s a respectable approach. It just was odd to see it after three straight attempts of doing the same thing, being reasonably successful with it, and then two five-hole tries in a row.
In any case, Stafford was able to get his shots off well and outside that first attempt on Budaj, I could understand what he was going for. He did not lose the puck or clearly miss the net. No, not every goalie took his moves, but it was not as if he entirely wasted his seven attempts. To that end, he could be seen as a shootout specialist. He certainly was on last year’s team.
Stafford is still a unrestricted free agent as of this writing as per CapGeek. Whether he will be signed or given a try-out remains to be seen over the next several weeks. It is common to point out that a certain kind of player is fading away from the league, usually enforcers. As a whole, skaters who are one-dimensional or specialists are also fading away in the NHL. Being good at shootouts can help a team secure an extra point in the standings here and there; but that requires playing in the 65 minutes prior to the shootout. In Stafford’s case, he really did not command a regular spot in the lineup despite many opportunities to do so in 2017-18. Stafford was not helpful in 5-on-5 play last season per Natural Stat Trick, he was never all that great of a defender or off-the-puck player, he has an offensive skillset but does always have the speed or quickness to do it, and he can go missing in games. He did nothing except score in the shootout against Neuvirth on February 13. That was an important shootout goal - it ended a losing streak at the time - but that came after less than 15 shifts of being a guy on the ice. Not being more than a guy who does well at shootouts on a regular basis is not going to endear teams to sign him. It points to why he’s still available now. And I do not think the Devils will go back to Stafford since they had months to retain him. At least he was good for the team in this aspect of the game.
Now keep that in mind for the next four guys who will be on the Devils next season:
Boyle finished fifth on the team in shootout attempts and entirely as the team’s fourth or fifth choice in shootouts. While the top three are the regulars, having five or six players in mind is a good idea for coaches to have. Especially if one of the regulars is out due to injury or a coaches’ decision. With only seven shootout attempts ever in his career prior to signing with the Devils in 2017, I would not have thought Boyle would be among that group. He justified Hynes’ decision to keep his name behind the top three.
If you like your shootout attempts to be by skaters just going down between the circles, then Boyle was your man on New Jersey. Whether it was all the way down to the crease or to the slot, Boyle had no real preference to go at an angle. He also tended to take them slowly. That is no surprise, Boyle is definitely not a burner in regulation or overtime.
He attempted two moves, which did not really work out. Boyle’s first shootout appearance with the Devils was in that long shootout with Boston. Boyle came in smoothly, not at a slow pace, he threw in a fake, and tried to go high on Khudobin. Khudobin said no. In January against the Isles, Boyle did a bit more - he made a stick fake, showed the puck on his forehand to his right and then cut to his left with a backhand to go forehand. That move did get Halak out of position. It also got away from Boyle as he could not collect the puck after the cut. Alas.
Interestingly, Boyle was the most successful when he made no move at all. Whereas Stafford failed to beat Lundqvist five-hole on December 21, Boyle made it look easy - catching Lundqvist just high enough that the Ringless Legend could not fall on the puck. In Nashville, in what would end up breaking a 1-1 deadlock, Boyle skated in and just wired a high shot to beat Saros. Boyle is not known for these kinds of shots in the run of play; but he’s got something with it.
I think how he was used in 2017-18 is perfectly fine for 2018-19. Boyle may not be skilled or dynamic enough to make a regular shooter. But as a fourth or fifth option, he is a perfectly acceptable option. Especially if the Devils need a “change of pace” guy after a couple of quicker attempts. The only tweak I would like to see is for Boyle to focus more on just trying to beat the goalie with his shot. Not that he is a sniper but he was more successful with that than trying to use his stickhandling or making a big move. If he wants to incorporate a simple fake with his stick, head, shoulder, etc., then that’s fine. But I think Boyle should just keep things simple, do not go too far left or right, and try to find a hole to quickly shoot at it.
Bratt dazzled the fanbase in the first half of the 2017-18 season. He went from a low-round prospect to a guy who dazzled in prospect games to a standout in preseason games and training camp to hanging on a first line in the NHL with Hischier and Taylor Hall. Bratt pulled off this amazing move on Condon to help the Devils win their second shootout of the season. It remains one of (if not the) best looking shootout goals the Devils scored in 2017-18. And it led to Bratt getting more shootout opportunities as he completed a fantastic (and difficult) deke to beat Condon. So what happened since then?
After an ill-advised, straight-ahead five-hole attempt on Mike Smith, Bratt went back to that move he made on Condon. He could not complete it against Khudobin; he lost the puck as he tried to bring the puck to his backhand. OK, so he reversed the order against Halak on January 7. He even threw in a shoulder shimmy before making the deke to go backhand to his right to his forehand on what should be an open left side. He lost the puck in trying to bring the puck to his left. He tried that again on Saros on March 13. He lost the puck again in trying to bring the puck over to his left. Khudobin, Halak, and Saros took that move - not as much as Condon, but they bit on it - and there was daylight for Bratt to shoot at if he could complete the move. That was the main problem - he could not complete it to take any shot.
While it was modified for Halak and Saros, Bratt effectively attempted the same move in four out of his five attempts. He skated to the goalie, he would start his move as he approached the crease, and then cut the puck back to his opposite side at one of the last possible times he could do so. That last part may be why it works - and why Bratt lost the puck. For Condon, the goalie was outside of his crease, he committed to Bratt going to Bratt’s left, and so Bratt knew to switch it on him early. Khudobin, Halak, and Saros were not as aggressive. Those extra few inches (feet?) made the margin for error even smaller for Bratt. While Bratt did not go full speed ahead at Khudobin, Halak, and Saros, he had to make his cut back as quick as possible to take advantage of the goalie. This meant forcing it across himself fast and getting his stick over in time to collect the puck. That’s where it becomes difficult and perhaps too difficult for Bratt. Bratt definitely has the confidence to attempt such a move, and he has the hands and stickhandling abilities to make it possible, but the execution had to be perfect. It was not. Bratt’s move was effective to make the goalie react; but without actually getting a shot off, can we really say it was an effective move?
Compare this with Stafford. His most common move - showing forehand towards his right and cutting it to his backhand towards the left post - was not easy. But it was entirely in Stafford’s comfort zone. He had the experience on top of the skill to make that move lead to a shot. I’m sure he had prior attempts like it where it went awry; but he made it work on four separate nights. Even if the goalie did not take the move, there would still be a shot. If there is something for Bratt to shoot for, it’s that.
Bratt has a bright future ahead of him and so I am confident he can improve. I think the concept he used in four out of his five attempts was a good one. It just needs to be tweaked such that Bratt can actually execute it more often. This could be done by making the cut back earlier. This could be done by taking it a bit slower. Even practicing it repeatedly such that Bratt can find out what would make it more comfortable would be a big help. Even if this all risks the goalie just not buying the deke enough to leave a hole for Bratt to shoot at, the current situation is that Bratt is more likely to lose the puck than shooting it at all. Not having a lot of net to shoot at is better than failing the attempt at all. Again, I like the concept - Bratt needs to figure out how to make it happen more consistently. I think it would also be to Bratt’s benefit to come up with a second move that may be easier to execute.
Even with these five attempts - that lame one against Smith aside - Bratt has demonstrated that he has skills well suited for a shootout. He is a good stickhandler. He has a quick release on his shot. He can skate fast and maintain his balance. He has the bravado to attempt difficult, last-moment dekes. He’s also 20, so there is absolutely room for growth. If Bratt wants to keep doing that late cut-back, then he really needs to learn to finish the deke consistently to get shots off. If that is not going to work, then he should go back to the drawing board. Status quo is not an ideal solution for Bratt and shootouts.
With Stafford not likely returning, Bratt may be among the top three shooters selected by default. After all, he shot second ever since the Condon goal when he was selected. I think Hynes and his staff believe in Bratt’s abilities for the shootout. If he can make these adjustments and/or learn some new moves, then he could really take command of that spot. If not, then that hurts the larger cause.
Ahead of 2017-18, I would not have guessed Kyle Palmieri to be among the regular shootout takers on the team. Prior to last season, Palmieri took one attempt and did not score with the Devils. Before joining the Devils, he was a lifetime 1-for-7 with the Ducks. Palmieri’s shot is great. But it is usually at his best with someone setting him up for a powerful one timer or someone giving him a screen or a good look to shoot at. When it comes to going one-on-one with the goalie, Palmieri was far from who I thought would be a regular among the top three shooters selected. Yet, that is what happened in 2017-18 for all six of his attempts.
Surprising to my memory and understanding of Palmieri’s skillset, he showed some flair among his six attempts. The bad news is that his success was front loaded.
The successes, well, were different. Against Tampa Bay, he put up the game-deciding goal with a good move. He went down the left side, inside of the dot, towards the left post fast; he showed the puck on his forehand towards the center of the crease and then cut the puck to his backhand on his left. It worked on Budaj. Yet, he attempted that kind of move only one other time. Neuvirth took the move, but he was able to get his right pad to the post in time to make a save. The other success was more in line with what he does in the run of play. Palmieri skated in from the left into the slot and fired a hard wrist shot against the grain to his left. The puck hit off King Nothing’s right shoulder and went into the top left corner of the net. Why he changed it up so much, I do not know.
Since then, Palmieri at least got his shots off, but all for little avail. Palmieri just stuck with shooting for his next two attempts. They were high shots, but the goalie denied him. Palmieri went back to his fast version of the move Stafford tended to use. While Neuvirth took that move, he got his pad across to deny the shot. If only Palmieri was able to lift it more. Saros didn’t take the move and stopped it more easily. These were not bad attempts on their own. For a guy I associate with being great at blasting shots, he showed that he had some flair and tried to pick corners as opposed to just overpowering the goalie. There’s something here.
But I do not think it is much. That cut to his backhand was similar to the common move Stafford tried. While he got the shot off, it only really worked the one time. Palmieri may have a threatening wrist shot, but again, he tried it a bunch of times and went away with it for reasons unknown. Maybe because it was not as threatening? Knowing that he was not utilized in shootouts much before and that his 2-for-6 in 2017-18 was his best shootout season run ever. I suspect that what we saw last season is likely what we’re going to get. That said, I expect he’ll remain a regular just because the Devils do not have anyone to push him from that spot. Especially with Stafford not returning. It could be worse.
There is a concept in all of sports of “just get your best player(s) on the field.” So what if he or she is not a perfect fit for the role at hand; his or her talent is too good to keep on the side. Taylor Hall was definitely the Devils’ best player last season and he should be their best in this coming season. Hall put up one of the greatest individual seasons in franchise history and became the first ever Devil to win the Hart Trophy while being a member of the Devils. He is a superstar. He played like one throughout the season.
But that does not mean he was perfect at everything. Hall was below average at shootouts and yet John Hynes just kept putting him out there because, well, he’s the Devils best player.
The only night Hall did not get a shootout attempt was on February 13, when the Devils secured the win with just two shooters. Hall took eight out of a possible nine attempts and scored just twice. Hall tried a whole bunch of different things among those eight tries. He first attempted a difficult-looking drag with the toe of his stick that did not fool Budaj at all. He tried rushing down the middle of the ice for shots three times. Condon stopped the first one; Hall tried slowing down on Carter Hutton, who was not bothered by his five-hole attempt; and the speed only worked on Saros, who was beaten five-hole. In the 65 minutes before Hall used his speed and wrist shot many times to beat goalies. He scored 24 out of 39 goals last season his wrist shot and on his forehand. Yet, he went for 1-for-3 in shootouts where he just took a shot and 1-for-4 on attempts that had him take a wrist shot. Go figure.
Hall scored exactly three goals with backhand shots (and two backhanders off rebounds, but rebounds do not matter here) in games last season. Compared with 24 forehand wristers, it suggests that his backhand is not all that good. Yet, he went to his backhand for half of his attempts as part of his idea of a move. That move was to head towards the crease, show the puck on his forehand, and just cut to his backhand as he came close in the hopes that it would surprise the goalie. It was a simple deke, not as wide as Bratt’s cut backs. It only worked one out of four times and it was the only time where he was able to get enough height to beat the Kudobin’s left. The other three times, Hall did not get enough air to beat the glove side. He tried slowing it down on Halak, which did not work. He tried a more mid-pace approach on Smith, which did not work. He tried to go fast on the Mayor of Rangerstown and he denied him. Oh, and Khudobin did not even take the move; he followed it. It was just a really well-placed shot.
So for Hall, it’s eight attempts where no goalie had a move to take four times and no goalie bit on the move four other times. It’s eight attempts split between one of his best tools - his wrist shot on his forehand - and one of his lesser used ones - his backhand. Despite the lack of success, Hall shot first for the Devils six times and first in the whole shootout four times. This is all very weird because Hall has scored multiple times in one-on-one situations with goalies. Typically on his forehand, typically heading right at the goalie with speed, and just trying to beat them with his shot as opposed to a dangle or a notable deke. He even scored on a penalty shot. So he could, in theory, be a success at shootouts. But, for whatever reason, breakaways in the run of play (or a penalty shot called from one) did not translate to the set pieces in 2017-18.
That should surprise nobody. Despite his elite talent, there was a reason why he came into this season with fewer than 20 shootout attempts. Prior to this season, Hall’s career in shootouts was scoring five goals out of eighteen. That’s not the worst success rate, but it’s not a high one at all. His number of attempts from his rookie season onward dwindled. He went from 7 to 4 to 0 in a lockout-shortened 2013 to 2 to 3 and to 3 in 2016-17 with New Jersey. Hynes knew well enough to not rely on Hall in 2016-17. So what was the basis of giving him a top-three spot in seven out of eight shootout attempts, much less giving him eight attempts at all? Again: Hall’s the best player on the team that has a whole lot of unknowns from a shootout perspective. So I figure that Hynes figured to put the best talent out there and hope it works out.
I will give Hynes this: he took him away from the top three towards the end of the season. With a 1-for-6 success rate, Hall was taken off the first shooter spot after January 7. I suspect he was out of the top three. The Devils did not even go three-deep on shooters on February 13; they won the shootout with just two. But the tell-tale sign was March 10 in Nashville. Hynes went with Palmieri, Bratt, and Stafford in that order as Hall went fourth. Hall at least scored that night, but it suggests to me that Hynes eventually learned that Hall’s not productive enough to warrant a regular spot. With Stafford gone and presumably not coming back, Hall may have to draw back in.
What can Hall do to improve on shootouts? I think he needs to learn a move or two that would emphasize his most used and best used assets. His most common move from last season was not that effective. That cut to his backhand fooled nobody and it ends with a type of shot that he was not successful with in his most successful season ever. He should dump that move. Instead, I think what would fit him best is a deke that allows him to fire a quick, forehand wrist shot and do so while skating fast at the goalie. Based on the goals he scored one-on-one with goalies last season, Hall can read goalies well and know when to shoot at (past) them. I do not think he needs something elaborate or difficult like Bratt’s move. Something as simple as a head fake or a shoulder shimmy may be up his alley. He could even try a fake shot, whether it is intentionally whiffing on a puck (Erik Karlsson did this to the Devils, but he missed the net) or flicking his stick blade, before firing a quick shot (Turris did this to the Devils). These are ideas that come to mind. He could just, like Palmieri and Stafford on a few occasions, just skate up and try to beat the goalie to a spot like the upper corners or five-hole. But I think having a move that goalies have to watch for and respect would open up those possibilities.
In the bigger picture, the expectation will be for Hall to continue to be the offensive leader and on-ice superstar in the 65 minutes prior to the shootout. He should contribute more than enough to make up for lacking a bit in shootouts. He has that much talent. That said, If the plan is for him to take shots regularly like in 2017-18, then he should have something different in mind. A repeat of last season would not be good.
That was a Lot, So What Should the Devils Do Again for Shootouts in 2018-19?
OK, three parts to this series. Let’s wrap this up.
For goalies, there is not a whole lot Cory Schneider would need to do. He was more than fine last season. Provided he can do well in general in this coming season, I think he will be OK. Keith Kinkaid could stand to add some his tweaks to his shootout performances to be more consistent in net. Kinkaid has solid fundamentals; so he should not try to bait shooters or get caught frozen such that he leaves a big hole on his glove side.
As for the shooters, the top three shooters are likely to start out in some combination of Palmieri, Hall, and Bratt. Palmieri could continue that move similar to Stafford’s and use his wrist shot here and there. Hall honestly needs a new move that goalies will respect enough in shootout situations so Hall could use just a direct shot here and there. Bratt needs to either modify his big cut-back deke, or go with something he can do that will consistently result in a shot on net. Other than Bratt, I do not have a whole lot faith in this group being so successful, but I could be wrong.
Beyond the top three, Boyle really should be a regular #4 or #5 guy. Just come in methodically and make the best wrist shot possible. Other than that, it is a toss up in my mind between Hischier, Severson, and Zacha. Hischier will likely get some attempts just to because he is still young and there may be potential somewhere. I was more impressed with the single attempt from Severson and Zacha, such that I think giving them another shot or two is worthwhile. Also because there are even slimmer pickings beyond them. You could argue for Zajac, even though it’s been years since he’s scored on a shootout attempt. You could argue for Butcher, even though his one attempt did not work out and he has not done much in the run of play to suggest he could make a shootout attempt work.
The X-factor may come in the next couple weeks. Maybe the Devils find someone on a try out or on a one-year, cheap deal that can be decent at shootouts. It is entirely possible - unlikely as it may be - that the Devils just bring back Stafford. And maybe somebody impresses enough in camp to make the New Jersey roster and it turns out that they may have a skillset suitable for a shootout situation. Any of those occurrences alone would deepen the Devils’ shootout choices. Maybe even enough to move Hall from the top three until Hall needs to or justifies regular attempts.
As a final point, in Part 2, I highlighted how Hynes had a set of players in mind for shootouts and largely stuck with them throughout the season. Unless Hall, Palmieri, Bratt, and Boyle are initially successful enough to carry the shooting side of shootouts, I think Hynes needs to make the selection process more open. I respect the concept Hynes showed last season. However, for a lack of reliable options on the shooting side, picking someone who did well in the game or beat a goalie one-on-one in the game or showed a slick deke or even just impressed on shootouts in practice. And I would recommend that until somebody (ideally, somebodies) emerges to have the stickhandling, the flair, and/or the shot that is worth having in a shootout over and over.
One Final Point & Thank You
I hope that in the future there is more analysis, qualitative or otherwise, for the shootout. As much as I understand the criticisms, they do count in the standings. Earning that extra point can make a big difference between making the playoffs or not, or determining who a team sees in the playoffs. For a team on a losing streak (e.g. the Devils going into that February 13 game against the Flyers), getting that shootout win is enough to end a slide and at least improve the feeling of the team (like it did on February 13). The shootout is also visible. The crowd is almost always on their feet at the Rock when the Devils are going; scoring and winning the shootout is celebrated like any other goal or victory; and an especially good move becomes a highlight - like it did for Bratt on Condon. The shootout is not going anywhere any time soon and it provides some value. So looking into what does and does not work is worth looking into.
I’d like to thank NHL.tv for having the broadcasts of games available in the offseason including shootouts. That made this whole short project possible. More importantly, I’d like to thank all of you for reading through more words than I ever expected to write in detail about the shootout.