Doing Some Research: Canadiens Choices For the Shootout


I loathe the shootout.  I'm a fan of the game at all levels, from junior to the pros and the international game, and I've always hated this way of ending a hockey game.  Give me unlimited sudden death overtime anyday of the week, and failing that option, call it a tie after 5-20 minutes.  So deep is my dislike for this arbitrary means of deciding tie games, that I've now taken to turning off the TV in protest after 65 minutes of NHL action. 

That said, as a fan of a NHL team, I must accept that this concept does exist, and that it does have real consequence in the standings.  So, whatever advantage the Canadiens can gain from the shootout should be explored.  The Canadiens possess no Jussi Jokinen or Thomas Vanek type expert that is known to anyone (and obviously to Jacques Martin), so finding quality shooters requires a bit of that research that our head coach likes to talk about. 

Career Shootout Stats (NHL)

Player

Goals

Attempts

SH%

Jaroslav Spacek

1

1

100

Max Pacioretty

2

4

50.0

David Desharnais

1

2

50.0

Andrei Markov

4

10

40.0

Brian Gionta

18

49

36.7

Scott Gomez

6

19

31.6

Mike Cammalleri

7

27

25.9

Andrei Kostitsyn

5

20

25.0

Brian Willsie

3

12

25.0

Erik Cole

1

5

20.0

Tomas Plekanec

3

20

15.0

Travis Moen

0

1

0.0

P.K. Subban

0

2

0.0



Martin was limited in choices last night, with no Spacek, Markov, Cammalleri, Kostitsyn, or Willsie from the list above to choose from.  And he only had very limited sample sizes for Pacioretty, Desharnais, Cole, Moen or Subban to draw from his notebook (I think it's on page 32).  He took a gamble on Pacioretty that paid off, and wisely chose Gionta, but his choice of Tomas Plekanec to lead off the shootout is baffling based on history.  While Scott Gomez may indeed be playing hurt, if he is not well enough to take a shootout attempt he probably shouldn't be in the lineup, and he's demonstrably better at this then Plekanec is.  Plekanec would have to go five for his next five to catch Gomez's percentage.  Plekanec is a bad choice for the top 3 altogether, and a terrible choice for the top 2, who should always be your team's two best shooters.

But wait, there's more!  Yes, the AHL has full shootout stats from 2005-06 to last year.  The AHL actually introduced the shootout during the NHL lockout year of 2004-05, but those stats aren't available on the AHL website for some reason.  In the AHL, they actually use 5 shooters instead of the 3 that are used in the NHL, so we have more data to draw from:

Career Shootout Stats (AHL)

Player

Goals

Attempts

SH%

Frederic St. Denis

1

1

100

Andrei Kostitsyn

12

21

57.1

P.K. Subban

3

7

42.9

Dany Masse

2

5

40.0

Aaron Palushaj

9

23

39.1

Alexander Avtsin

3

9

33.3

Gabriel Dumont

2

6

33.3

Michael Blunden

1

3

33.3

Ryan White

1

3

33.3

Garrett Stafford

6

27

22.2

Lars Eller

2

9

22.2

Mathieu Darche

4

19

21.1

Brian Willsie

4

20

20.0

David Desharnais

2

10

20.0

Max Pacioretty

2

10

20.0

Andrew Conboy

0

1

0.0

Petteri Nokelainen

0

1

0.0

Hunter Bishop

0

3

0.0

Andreas Engqvist

0

3

0.0

For whatever reason, Andrei Kostitsyn's dominance in the AHL at this hasn't translated well so far in the NHL, but if he's available, I'd still give him a shot if I were in Martin's position.  Subban hasn't had a lot of opportunity in either league, but given his skill set he should be an option, especially in a situation like last night.  Aaron Palushaj would've been a choice that showed Martin had done some research as well, as he's one of a few Habs skaters in the organization that seems to have above average skill in this event.  Interestingly, Pacioretty and Desharnais have not shown a lot of proficiency at the AHL level despite their skill set and reputation. 

Martin should also not hesitate to use defensemen: they are 5/13 at the NHL level (38.5%) and 10/35 at the AHL level (28.6%).  Given the skill of some of Montreal's defenders, this may not be a bad route to take. 

As for the other half of the shootout, here's our organization's goaltenders in the shootout, both NHL and AHL stats:

Goalie

League

Saves

Attempts

SV%

Carey Price

NHL

70

102

.686

Peter Budaj

NHL

65

104

.625

Karri Ramo

NHL

8

15

.533

Nathan Lawson

NHL

2

6

.333

Carey Price

AHL

9

10

.900

Robert Mayer

AHL

18

24

.750

Karri Ramo

AHL

41

59

.695

Nathan Lawson

AHL

55

83

.663

Peter Delmas

AHL

1

4

.250

Carey Price earned a reputation for shootout excellence based on one 'clutch' win in the 2007 WJC's vs. the USA, despite the fact that Peter Mueller beat him 2 out 3 tries in that shootout.  He is the Canadiens best option in goal, though, even if he is not all that dominant.  Budaj is a slight dropoff, while in the AHL, it looks like Robert Mayer might have some talent in this discipline, at least a lot more than one would expect from his regular numbers. 

So, what is the ideal Canadiens shootout lineup?  Well, here's my preferred options:

1.  Brian Gionta, 2.  Andrei Markov, 3. Andrei Kostitsyn, 4. Scott Gomez, 5. Mike Cammalleri, 6. Max Pacioretty, 7. P.K. Subban, 8. Aaron Palushaj, 9. David Desharnais, 10. Alexander Avtsin.

Yep, from what I can tell, Plekanec isn't even top 10 in the organization at this discipline.  It's a stunning deficiency for the team's best forward, but there's no evidence to justify his lofty position under Martin.

That said, whatever hunch Martin had about Pacioretty paid off last night, but he's got a ways to go to prove to me he should go second, even with a depleted lineup.  Gionta, based on the percentages, should've been top 2. 

What's your shootout lineup?  Feel free to post it in the comments. 

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