Could the Shootout Doom Bruins Playoff Hopes?

Coach on a lukewarm seat perhaps or something to prove? (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)
(Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

Claude Julien thinks that shootouts suck.

He said that – those exact words – when asked why his team struggles so much in the extra time, skills competition portion of regular season hockey games.

It was warranted. The Bruins are coming off of another shootout loss on Thursday night, this time at the hands of the Calgary Flames, 4-3. It was the team’s seventh consecutive loss in nine total shootouts this year. That’s not very good, especially in a season where the Bruins could use every point possible. It gets worst, though.

In 46 attempts in the shootout this season, the Bruins have scored six times. Just six. The Bruins’ conversation rate, or shooting percentage, of 13% in the shootout ranks 29th, second worst in the NHL. The six goals came from six different Bruins, two of which (David Krejci and Alex Khokhlachev) aren’t even on the active roster.

“It’s always tough to take, and you go back – I don’t know how many years – look at my comments about them,” said Rask, who stopped 29 of the Flames’ 32 shots. “They suck, because it’s such an emotional difference between winning and losing in a shootout, and this season we haven’t been really good at them. So it sucks even more.”

Rask has every reason to be frustrated, too – he has been in net for each of the Bruins’ seven shootout losses. Out of 39 attempts from opposing teams, Rask has allowed 10 goals in the shootout. Though his .744 save percentage is less than ideal, the goal support he’s getting from the Bruins is much worse.

In seven shootout losses, the Bruins have scored three times.

“It’s no secret, we have to do a better job of winning games in the shootout,” said Milan Lucic, who was one of eight Bruins with an attempt in Thursday’s shootout – he didn’t score, by the way. “Tuukka [Rask] has been really good in the shootout, giving us a chance to win, but at the end of the day, it’s up to us to make sure it doesn’t even get there with the opportunities we’re creating.”

Sure, the Bruins have rallied from behind and forced the overtime period and shootout. They got the extra point – great. But the Bruins have left seven possible points on the table by not being able to convert in the shootout. With the Florida Panthers, Philadelphia Flyers, and Ottawa Senators all within striking distance of the Bruins’ final wild card spot, this is a big problem.

“We’re struggling a little bit on that this year and I don’t know why,” said Loui Eriksson, another of the Bruins’ eight shooters from Thursday. Eriksson didn’t convert in the shootout, but he did score the goal to help get the team there. “It was kind of bouncing today when we got the chances so. I thought [Rask did] a good job for us. We just need to start scoring more goals when we get those opportunities.”

It’s obvious that the Bruins get lost in the shootout. There they are, all alone with just the opposing team’s goaltender in front of them, no distractions. It’s calm. It’s not the pace the Bruins used to get there in the first place – and that’s what hurting them.

When the Bruins force overtime, it’s often after a desperation-laced third period. You know the one, when the Bruins play their best 20 minutes of the game making you wonder where that performance was. That one. The Bruins have five overtime losses when playing from behind.

In these moments, the Bruins are doing whatever they can to get pucks on net. It’s a frantic pace. When the Bruins begin to want it, so to speak, everything is rushed. They’ll throw anything they can on net and focus more on continuing the momentum and pressure rather than setting up in the offensive zone. Go from that pace to the shootout and there’s a major drop-off. There, the Bruins have to think. The Bruins are forced to react tactfully and execute accordingly. It’s the one flaw that has been around all aspects of their game this season. It’s something they can’t do.

So for now, the Bruins continue to leave points on the table because they can’t figure out ways to score goals. Same story, different game.

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