rask

Red Wings’ Shootout Troubles: Who’s to Blame?

This season has not been the Red Wings’ best when it comes to shootouts. Long gone are the days when Pavel Datsyuk could dangle Tomas Vokoun with his patented move resulting in Vokoun’s jock strap landing in Section 415. Detroit is 0-3 in shootouts so far in the 2014-15 season and need to improve. Those extra standings points can go a long way at the end of the season.

 

The Suspects

The Tendys

The Shooters

The Coaches

 

Jim-meh

As a goalie, it is easier for me to find blame in the goaltenders for goals allowed. Mike Babcock summed it up perfectly during the 2008 playoffs when pucks kept finding their way past Dominik Hasek in the first round against Nashville, “Pucks went in the net.” It doesn’t matter who made a bad play that resulted in a goal, the puck went in, and it’s the goalie’s duty to prevent that.

Unfortunately, there is a move, that when correctly executed, beats Jimmy Howard. A couple actually, and they are both similar plays. David Krejci and Ryan Callahan (both right-handed) deked blocker and pulled back to tuck in the glove side. Howard was nowhere near the puck. Zemgus Girgensons and Tyler Ennis (both left-handed) sniped blocker on a quick backhand-to-forehand-shoot move. It moves the angle before the goalie can get there. As for Reilly Smith‘s snipe, the last of the five Howard has allowed, his five hole was wide open. This is because Jim leans forward and angles his blade at a 45 degree angle along the ice. Tuukka Rask and Ben Bishop have a crouched, but upright stance that let’s their stick blade run perpendicular to the ice.

By the way, Howard’s save percentage in shootouts is a paltry .286 this season (two saves on seven shots). To be fair, Lightning defenseman Matt Carle missed the net on one of Howard’s “saves”.

 

One and Done

Apparently Detroit’s scoring troubles don’t stop when regulation time does. Darren Helm, Tomas Tatar, and Andrej Nestrasil all had terrible attempts. Gustav Nyquist scored once, but tried the same exact move in his next attempt and was easily stopped by Ben Bishop. His goal is the only one the Red Wings have tallied in any shootout this season.

To their credit, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg both almost scored if it wasn’t for Michal Neuvirth’s dumb luck. Pav’s snipe hit the knob of Neuvy’s stick in a wide-open high blocker area. Z’s fake slapshot deke almost trickled through. If Zetterberg deked to the backhand instead, he would have had a wide open net.

 

The Brains of the Operation

Why Helm and Nestrasil? Seriously. Helm is a great hockey player, but finesse is not his thing. It often looks like he moves too fast for his brain to keep pace. How much studying is done to prepare players for shootouts? Is that the coaches’ or players’ responsibility to know the tendencies of their opponents? The coaches do pick the shooters, so hopefully they have some reasoning behind their selections.

 

The Verdict

Everyone.

Jimmy, don’t get sniped. Fake shot, deke blocker, pull back to glove side is 100% effective of embarrassing you this season.

Shooters, know your goalies.

Coaches, know your goalies too. Also, don’t let Helm or Nestrasil shoot again.

Do the Red Wings Need Size in the Lineup?

Bob Probert

Photo courtesy of the Detroit Red Wings

It was apparent against the big, bad Bruins that the Red Wings were lacking in the physicality department. Milan Lucic, Zdeno Chara, and Kevan Miller pushed the Red Wings around and did not allow them to achieve consistency in their speed game. Since the Red Wings couldn’t play their game, they could not generate optimal scoring opportunities. Tuukka Rask is a world-class goalie and stopped everything the Bruins kept to the outside with ease.

Look at the teams still in the playoffs. Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Montreal all have complete teams with size and toughness to keep things in check. In Sunday’s Western Conference matchup, players like Brandon Bollig, Matt Greene, and Bryan Bickell keep everyone in line on the ice. There is no one player dominating or roughing everyone up. Those players police the ice, but have skills other than toughness.

Justin Abdelkader has similar attributes for the Red Wings, but no one fears him on the ice. He hits and fights more out of necessity than desire. Other than Abdelkader, the Red Wings really don’t have players that grind and wear down opponents physically, much like how the Grind Line was so effective for the Red Wings from 1997 to 2002.

Should the Red Wings invest in players to fill that role? Jonathan Ericsson, Drew Miler, and Brian Lashoff can be physical, but they don’t scare anyone. In the past, guys like Bob Probert, Darren McCarty, and Kirk Maltby created room for other players and lines to generate scoring chances. I think they need one more player to really wear down some teams.

Imagine an energy line of Darren Helm at center, Justin Abdelkader on a wing, and another player with grit. They could rough up a team with their up-tempo, physical style and create room for the other lines to score. Steve Downie, Steve Ott, and Brian Boyle cold all fill this role and contribute on the penalty kill if called upon. Boyle is currently filling this role for the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals. He gets under the skin of opposing players and has the physical strength to keep them from playing their game.

On the other hand, the Red Wings have not really employed this strategy lately. They tried with Jordin Tootoo, but he was too one-dimensional to fit the Red Wings system. In addition, Drew Miller is already slated for energy line duty and does not fit anywhere else on the team. Miller could play with Helm and an addition, but is slower and less physical than Abdelkader.

My vote is to add size. The players mentioned above would be good fits, as would Mitch Callahan on a line with Helm and Abdelkader. Speed and physicality will allow smaller players on other lines to do their thing without much resistance, or else those defenders would be dealt with. Detroit doesn’t need a fighter, just someone to scare the other teams.