"Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes, and T.J. Oshie in the shootout."- Benjamin Franklin
Since the 2009-10 season, no one has been money after 65 minutes of play like T.J. Oshie. In that time span, he's gone 29 for 53 in the shootout- an unthinkable 55% rate of success. Generally, even the best shootout players only score at about a 40% rate.
It's a clear competitive advantage for the St. Louis Blues. That is, until the postseason, where there are no shootouts, but indefinite sudden-death overtime instead. So what gets Oshie excited for the playoffs?
"To me, it's all about the shootout," Oshie says. "That's all I've been telling my teammates these last few years in the playoffs, 'Don't worry about winning in regulation, don't worry about winning in overtime. Just get me to the shootout, and I'm going to carry you.'"
"We haven't broken the news about there being no shootouts in the playoffs to T.J. yet, and we aren't going to anytime soon," St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock admits, after making sure Oshie isn't in the room.
Incredibly, the Blues have concealed one of the basic rules of the Stanley Cup Playoffs from Oshie. But why?
"Osh is a very sensitive guy," St. Louis Captain David Backes explains. "It's hard on him. He wants to contribute like the rest of us, but with only one skill, he just can't. It'd kill him if he knew his single redeeming quality as a player was taken away in the playoffs."
Oshie has proven that he can be successful in high-level tournament play, so long as there is a shootout. In the 2014 Winter Olympics, he was the deciding factor in a qualifying game against Russia, converting 4 of 6 shootout attempts against Russian goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. This miraculous victory over the Russians earned Oshie nation-wide praise, and spring-boarded Team USA to a 4th-place finish.
"To me, that's the kind of moment you dream about," Oshie beams. "And I can't wait until the time comes where it's Game 7, and it all comes down to just me one-on-one with a goalie. I was born for that moment."
Oshie's teammates are very careful to not let him find out about the lack of shootouts in the playoffs, but there have been some close calls.
"I was talking to Vlad[imir Tarasenko] one day about there being no shootouts in the playoffs, when T.J. walks right behind me," center Jori Lehtera recalls. "Osh was starting to put it together, and I was panicking. Osh asked, 'Wait, what do you mean there's no shootouts in the playoffs?' But Vlad was so smart, he said 'Oh, we were talking about the KHL playoffs.' Thank God he bought it, I was so scared we blew it."
Star defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk adds, "In the playoffs, we try to wrap overtimes up in 5 minutes or less just in case Osh learns to tell time, but if it goes a little longer than that, we usually keep telling T.J. 'Just a couple more minutes.' I'm glad he didn't play in that 3OT game last year against Chicago. I don't know how we'd cover that one up. We probably would've had to tell him we had to play a do-over or something."
Players like Alex Pietrangelo once had moral qualms about concealing the truth from Oshie. "I don't believe in lying, I'm generally an honest person. But when you see how happy T.J. is being in blissful ignorance of the fact that the one part of his game that makes him an OK player vanishes in the postseason, it's all worthwhile. How could you take that away from him?"
And indeed, Oshie appears to be happy in this lack of knowledge, waiting for his perfect moment to shine, though it will never come.
"I know that I haven't been my best for the team when they needed me most," Oshie says, alluding to his paltry 7 points in 24 career postseason games. "But I know deep down that each time we get to the shootout, I'm gonna be the hero, and it'll make up for everything."