Boston’s Shootout Futility Under Claude Julien

Claude Julien is not a fan of the shootout.

Following a loss to the Calgary Flames two weeks ago, a bold reporter asked the Boston Bruins head coach for his thoughts on it.

“They suck. That’s my [feelings on] the shootout.”

Short, sweet, and to the point.

It is hard to ignore the mediocrity of Boston’s shootout performances this season. A 12-round shootout loss in Edmonton and an eight-round loss to Calgary saw one Bruin player score in 20 combined attempts. Their shootout loss to the lowly Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night dropped Boston’s record to 3-8 in the individual skills competition this season. Only the Tampa Bay Lightning (2-5) and Los Angeles Kings (2-7) have fewer shootout victories than the Bruins.

The Black and Gold are a mere 8-52 (15.4%) in successful shootout attempts, third-worst in the league. Although Boston’s shootout save percentage is near the top, their inability to convert has cost them eight valuable points in the standings this year.

Long-Standing Shootout Struggles

The shootout may “suck”, but since Julien took the helm behind the bench in 2007, the Bruins have not performed well in them. In the 89 shootouts Boston has participated in since the start of the 07-08 season, the club is 41-48 (.461) with 86 goals in 318 shootout attempts (27%).

In fact, in the eight years of Julien’s tenure with the Bruins, the club has one season with a shooting percentage over 33% in the shootout. The year after Boston won the Stanley Cup, they recorded a 9-3 record in the post-overtime contest scoring on half of their 38 attempts, third-best in the league. The 2011-12 season is the outlier in an era of shootout futility for the Black and Gold under Julien.

Familiar Faces

(Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)
One player that has been called upon by Julien in shootouts is Patrice Bergeron. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

Julien has sent out a consistent lineup to take the first three shots, including center Patrice Bergeron. The Quebec native uses his signature move of opening up the opposing goaltender’s five-hole to deposit the puck into the net more often than not.

Bergeron has been the most consistent forward Julien has relied on recently. The 11-year veteran has scored on 13 of 34 attempts (38.2%) in the past five seasons, but is only two of nine this year.

Brad Marchand is another player Julien often relies on to come through in the clutch. Boston’s leading goal scorer has hit the back of the net 19 times in regulation and three in overtime this season, but is two for seven in the shootout. In the past three seasons, he has a 26.3% success rate (5/19) when going one-on-one with the goaltender after overtime.

The Seguin Effect

Is there a correlation between Seguin and Boston's shootout woes since his departure? (Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE)
Is there a correlation between Tyler Seguin and Boston’s shootout woes since his departure? (Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE)

Tyler Seguin was arguably the club’s best finisher during his three seasons with the Bruins. The second overall pick of 2010 used the shootout to showcase his raw talent. Seguin was an offensive force in 2011-12 scoring 29 goals and 67 points. He also led the club in shootout goals (six) and attempts (12) that season. The six-foot-one-inch center would go on to convert just under half of his shootout opportunities while donning a Bruins sweater (13/27, 48.1%).

After trading Seguin in 2013, the Bruins have slumped to a 6-13 record in shootouts. Reliability and consistency from the forward have given way to frustration and anger as displayed by Julien in his postgame press conference two weeks ago. Reilly Smith was a piece of the Seguin trade and made a solid first impression last season. He was not a frequent participant in shootouts, but converted on two of his four opportunities.

It has been a much different story for the right-winger in his sophomore season in Boston. He has been called upon more, but has only scored once in nine chances. As a whole, it has been a disappointing season for Smith, failing to replicate his success last year.

Is It a Concerning Trend?

One of the biggest topics during the general managers meeting in Florida this week is the possibility of changing the overtime format to four-on-four following by a period of three-on-three. This would be music to Julien’s ears as the Bruins have demonstrated more success in overtime than a shootout recently. This season, Boston is 8-3 in games decided in extra session thanks to Julien’s aggressiveness going with three forwards and a defenseman often. As long as the competition committee approves the idea in June, three-on-three OT may be the future of the NHL. That should sit well with the organization.

Thankfully for Claude Julien and shootouts do not (and should never) decide playoff games.

However, if the Bruins somehow miss the playoffs this season, fans will look to their shootout losses and think what could have been.