T.J. Oshie: Shootout Stud to Playoff Dud

 

Just two months ago, T.J. Oshie was the toast of the country after he duked it out with Team Russia in an Olympics preliminary qualifying match. The Everett, Wash. native delivered four shootout goals on six attempts, thrusting the American roster to a big 3-2 victory against Sergei Bobrovsky and Team Russia.

Oshie's thrilling 4-for-6 shootout was a moment for the ages (Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports)

Oshie’s thrilling 4-for-6 shootout was a moment for the ages (Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports)

It was a shining moment for Oshie, who continued his torrid pace with two more shootout goals in as many attempts through the remainder of the NHL regular season, bringing his totals for the 2013-14 campaign to nine goals on 12 shots — an astonishing 75 percent conversion rate. He ranked first among shooters that had more than seven attempts.
It’s an amazing skill that very few players around the world possess. However, it means diddly squat in the postseason.

The NHL, thankfully, does away with the skills competition in the playoffs. The league wants clubs to rely on team play and the ability to capitalize on minimal opportunities in lieu of handing offensive phenoms the puck for an uncontested breakaway chance.

A team that went 9-3 in the shootout in 2013-14, the St. Louis Blues find themselves deadlocked in a 2-2 quarterfinal-round series with the rival Chicago Blackhawks. After winning the first two contests at Scottrade Center in dramatic fashion, the team was stymied in Chicago during Game 3 and was defeated in overtime on Wednesday night. The last two games were played without captain David Backes, who is currently out with what the team calls an “upper-body injury,” and with the team’s other supposed star players being left off the scoresheet (with a few obvious exceptions). Victories have come simply because the bottom-two lines have filled in the gaps offensively.

[See related: Blues Unlikely Heroes Taking Control of Series]

Oshie, who returned from an injury in Game 2, is yet to register a point in this year’s playoffs. Why is that not a surprise?

The Blues’ most recognizable face on offense has recorded a measly two goals and five points in 22 career postseason games. He adds a dismal minus-9 to his stats sheet. His three games in this playoff round include just three shots, which all took place in Game 4.

This comes after a season that saw Oshie finish second on the roster with 60 points (21-39) and was even among the NHL’s most Googled players.

For comparison reasons, let’s take a look at the current playoff-scoring leaders:

(courtesy NHL.com)

(courtesy NHL.com)

Now, we’ll peek at where each player ranked among his team’s scoring leaders during the regular season:

team rank

As you can see, some players belong where they are (Stastny, MacKinnon, Dubinsky), while others are playing above their heads (Martin, Johnson). With the exception of Vladimir Tarasenko, the Blues are receiving the latter… that’s it.

Looking at a more local scale, Oshie is being passed up by teammates with similar career games in terms of playoff success. Some of the names may astonish — and possibly even disturb — you as a hockey fan.

 

 

blues ppg

As you can see, even the two most scrutinized players on the roster — Berglund and Jackman — are contributing more points to the Blues’ totals than Oshie.
Success is driven by its leaders. The last two games have seen the Blues lineup fall in line with the guy who is pointed to for the big goal when it’s so desperately needed.

Oshie's last goal was on March 27 (Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports)

Oshie’s last goal was on March 27 (Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports)

Perhaps playing injured

There is a chance that Oshie was rushed back from the possible concussion he suffered on April 10. In that case, his timing would be off and his scoring prowess would take a hit. He would be playing it safe in the corners to avoid another big hit that might keep him off the rink for an extended period of time.

Why play then? If Oshie is not playing at 100 percent capacity, coach Ken Hitchcock must get someone in there who can. Magnus Paajarvi has not played since the regular season and proved multiple times to possess soft hands and game-breaking abilities. His abilities with the puck and scorching shot would provide more to the Blues offense than a hurt Oshie ever could.

What Oshie has to do

Forget the hype. Say no to the commercial spots. Focus on the game and make your team’s offense the No. 1 priority.

Oshie’s overall game is not bad, per se. In the defensive zone, he has helped the Blues kill nine of 10 Blackhawk power plays in the past three games. It’s encouraging that Oshie’s game does not completely deteriorate come playoff time. It’s easier to bounce back if only one aspect of his game is suffering.

That aspect is production. If this trend continues, he’ll be leading his team on the losing end of the handshake line in a few short days.

Jeff Ponder
I joined TheHockeyWriters in January 2012 while serving as a St. Louis Blues media member during the 2011-12 season. Currently, fellow THW writer Mike Poepping and I host the Blues Face Off Show, found on KSDK.com, St. Louis' No. 1 source for news.
Jeff Ponder

3 Comments

  1. That worries me about Backes now. Obviously they’d love to have him back to help win this series but at what cost IF he’s concussed? Sports teams make a big deal about head-safety, but there’s a pretty big double standard in the playoffs

  2. Bluenotebacker — Couldn’t have said it better myself. If he is truly playing injured, the coaching staff needs to sit him and let him rest up. I’d rather have a healthy Oshie for the next 12 years rather than a shell of his former self for 3 years.

  3. I think Oshie is suffering the effects of a concussion and that makes it not only harmful to the team’s success but staggeringly stupid for him to be out on the ice. I’m no doctor and I’ve never met the kid, but we all know how good a player he is, and he’s barely a shadow of himself on the ice right now.

    He’s done well killing penalties, but that’s about it. He looks sloppy and unfocused, but to be fair, the entire team looks that way at the moment and they’ll have to really check down and figure out if they truly want to be the team they CAN be this year before Friday’s Game 5.

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