The Wild lose in the shootout more than they win. It has never been any different, and for the foreseeable future, it will not be any different. With Niklas Backstrom now 1-9 in his last ten shootouts, losing six straight, and only two shooters worth sending to the center dot, how can this team expect to win in the skills competition?
Let's look at the numbers.
What it all comes down too is wins and losses. The Wild had a record of 5-7 in the shootout, scoring 14 goals, and giving up 15. The team as a whole had a .700 Save %, and stopped 35 of 50 attempts against.
Niklas Backstrom, the backbone of this team, went 2-7 with a .632 save %, stopping 38 and allowing 14. Josh Harding and Wade Dubielewicz were perfect, but accounted for only three appearances, with Harding allowing one goal and stopping ten, and Dubie stopping both shots he faced. The most telling numbers for the netminders was Backstrom's .455 save % on the road, resulting in three losses.
Backstrom ranked 42nd in the league in shootout Save %, and is in a large block of goalies with just two shootout wins, showing up 48th on the list. He did break the top ten in one category: shootout goals against, where he finished 9th.
The Wild had 11 different players attempt the shootout. Koivu was involved in 12, scoring 5 goals for a 41.7% conversion rate. After that, no one attempted more than five shots which highlights two things. One, Koivu was the only player who could be reasonably trusted in the shootout. Two, that Koivu was the only player who could be trusted in the shootout.
Koivu's five goals put him at 20th in the league, which is respectable, in a sad kind of way.
(Numbers are prior to tonight's action)
Wondering what the current Wild roster looks like in career shoot out numbers? So was I. Here they are.
Niklas Backstrom is 11-22 in 33 tries, with a .583 Save %. Let me say that again. .583 Save %. He has given up 50 goals in 120 attempts. 7-12 at home, 4-10 on the road. All of these numbers stack up and beg the question... how in the world is this guy so bad in the shootout? Maybe it's not as bad as it looks, right? Well...
Jose Theodore is 15-8 in 23 tries, with a Save % of .744. He has given up 20 goals in 78 attempts. Sure, he doesn't have as many tries at this as Backstrom does, but 78 tries is a pretty good sample for extrapolation. Over 120 tries, he gives up 30 goals, or 20 less than Backstrom.
From the stats at NHL.com, it is difficult to judge what an average goalie has for a shootout save %, but it looks like
Mikko Koivu once again leads the pack with 21 goals in 48 attempts, but Matt Cullen is right on his heels with a 12 for 29 mark. After that, it falls off very quickly:
Antti Miettinen 8-23
Marek Zidlicky 6-19
John Madden 4-12
Brent Burns 4-13
Martin Havlat 3-18
Guillaume Latnedresse 1-7
No one else on the roster has a shootout goal including Andrew Brunette (0-9) and Chuck Kobasew (0-5)
Overall, since the inception of the shootout, the Wild are 28-30, the 28 wins ranking them 14th in the league. Their 58 shootouts rank them 8th in all time shootout games played. The team's .648 shootout save % ranks them 19th. The goalies have given up 75 goals against, earning them third on the list of shame. The shooters have scored 70 goals for (11th) on 208 attempts for a conversion rate of 33.7% (17th).
14th in shootout wins, 19th in save %, 11th in goals scored, 17th in shot conversion rate, and 3rd in goals against. One word springs to mind: "Mediocrity."
What Does All This Mean?
As long as Backstrom is the number one goalie, the Wild are going to lose more shootouts than they win. If a game goes to over time, the team has a choice to make. Either step up and score a goal in the sudden death five minutes, or odds are, leave with the single point.
With Backstrom being a positional goalie, and the entire point of the shootout meant to deke a positional goalie out of his pants, there is very little the Wild can do about these numbers. Short of subbing in a cold, 65-minutes-on-the-bench Jose Theodore when the Wild hits the shootout, there is absolutely zero the team can do to help Backs.
It's not as though the Wild shooters are dangerous enough to give Backstrom something to work with.
Instead, the focus may need to be on improving the shooting side of the coin. Two players above 40% is not bad, and both players scored against the Kings, but two players is not going to be enough to win, unless, of course, you are facing Niklas Backstrom. Honestly, I'm not sure how you train a professional hockey player how to shoot one on one, when they have had their entire careers to learn it, but with as tight as the playoff race usually ends up, some time spent in practice trying to secure those extra points might be worth it.
Just make sure it's a challenge. Have Theodore backstop the practice sessions.