The Detroit Red Wings can’t seem to solve two things this season: the Florida Panthers and shootouts.
The Red Wings dropped another game in the shootout Friday night, this time, a 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers. The Red Wings are 1-5 in shootouts this season, with Jimmy Howard accounting for all five of those losses.
The only team they were able to beat in the shootout, the New Jersey Devils, have won just one shootout in their last 22 opportunities.
And for whatever reason, the Red Wings also can’t figure out the Panthers. Detroit is 0-2 against Florida this season, after going 2-1-2 last year. They haven’t beaten the Panthers since Feb. 6, 2014.
The Red Wings still find themselves tied for first place in the Eastern Conference at 41 points, but with five shootout losses under their belt in the first 30 games, that’s a possible five extra points they could have.
Pull Jimmy Howard?
It’s no secret Howard has struggled in shootouts, as fellow The Hockey Writers contributor Prashanth Iyer stated on Twitter on Friday night.
Howard has stopped just 3 of 12 shots in SO this season.
— Prashanth Iyer THW (@iyer_prashanth) December 13, 2014
That’s a save percentage of .250, which is the worst mark of all goalies in the NHL.
As you can guess, Howard is frustrated with his lack of success, as he told MLive.com’s Ansar Khan after the game.
“It’s frustrating, it really is. It’s (expletive) frustrating. We keep having meeting after meeting after meeting about it. We work on it in practice. Just going to have to stick with it.”
There’s no way I can defend it. Howard simply isn’t good at shootouts anymore. I say anymore, because back in 2010-12, he was really good at them.
But now, he has the hardest of times stopping the puck one-on-one.
Bleacher Report’s Dave Lozo had an interesting way of solving the Red Wings’ shootout woes.
Related: Mike Babcock needs to consider pulling Jimmy Howard for shootouts. Jesus is he terrible in shootouts.
— Dave Lozo (@DaveLozo) December 13, 2014
It seems like a far-fetched idea, but at this point, what does the team have to lose? It worked for Julie “The Cat” Gaffney in D2: The Mighty Ducks, it can work for Howard, right?
Obviously, it doesn’t help Howard’s confidence if he is yanked every time the game goes to a shootout, but so far, he hasn’t proven he can secure the win for his team.
However, putting in a cold goalie to face shooters in a shootout does come with its disadvantages. The obvious one being the fact if Petr Mrazek came into the game, he wouldn’t have any chance to warm up.
He’s been sitting on the bench all game long with a clipboard in his hands. To ask him to come in cold and stop a shooter one-on-one seems like suicide.
The other disadvantage would be a higher likelihood of Mrazek injuring himself. He won’t have any chance to warm up or stretch out, and the odds of him having to make an acrobatic save on a deke will be much higher in the shootout than they would in a regular game.
Is it worth taking the risk of hurting your third-string goalie for a shot at getting an extra point?
Time for Different Shooters?
Howard is not completely to blame for the Red Wings’ inability to win in shootouts. The shooters have to take 50 percent of the blame.
The Red Wings have scored just three goals on 16 shootout opportunities, with Gustav Nyquist getting two goals and Pavel Datsyuk getting one.
I know I criticized coach Mike Babcock for using players like Darren Helm earlier in the season. But what does he have to lose at this point? Nyquist and Datsyuk aren’t getting the job done on a regular basis — Tomas Tatar has no goals in three opportunities.
You can tell the lack of success is getting to the shooters. Watch as Nyquist, one of the most sure-handed players on the team, fumbles the puck and doesn’t even get a shot off during his attempt.
Why not give someone like Riley Sheahan or Johan Franzen a change? Sheahan has shown he has good hands during games, let him try his luck in a shootout. Franzen has deked around guys in tight windows, let’s see if he can make a difference. Henrik Zetterberg has only had one opportunity this year, maybe he should get a couple more shots.
The team practices shootouts and takes all the necessary steps needed to improve in shootouts, but there are no improvements being made.
Something has to change, or they will continue to lose valuable points and possibly the top spot in the conference.
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Tom Mitsos is a Detroit Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins staff writer for The Hockey Writers. You can follow him on Twitter @tom_mitsos.