There is a lot of controversy surrounding the shootout, but one thing is understood by all — they are important to win. While it may not be fair to decide a game in a skills competition, the difference between two points and one point at the end of the shootout does effect a team’s fate in the standings.
The Nashville Predators have been in eleven shootouts through 60 games this season and have a 6-5 record. Though Nashville sits atop the NHL standings with 87 points, 5 points ahead of the second place Anaheim Ducks, winning a few more shootouts would not have hurt their cause.
After Sunday night’s game in Buffalo, which required a shootout in a 2-1 Predators win, many questioned head coach Peter Laviolette’s shootout lineup. For an unknown reason, Laviolette has grown favor with Matt Cullen over Filip Forsberg in the shootout. Entering the night, Cullen was 1-for-3 and Forsberg was 2-for-6. In a tiebreaker in this situation, it does not take a genius to choose the 20-goalscorer over the 5-goalscorer.
Have to question the shootout lineup a bit. How do you not lead with Forsberg or Smith? The Cullen inclusion is odd even with last SO goal.
— Brandon Felder (@brandon_felder) February 21, 2015
Nevertheless, Cullen was the third shooter.
He missed. In the fourth round, Laviolette went to Forsberg, who won the game.
Avoiding anymore controversy with the shootout, here is what the shootout lineup should be:
It did not take long for Mike Santorelli to find a place in the Predators’ shootout lineup. Prior to being traded to Nashville a week ago, Santorelli was the Toronto Maple Leafs’ best shooter in the shootout, notching three goals on five attempts. The 29-year-old’s first attempt for Nashville was a goal in the aforementioned 2-1 win in Buffalo. Over the course of the Vancouver native’s seven year career, he is 16-for-34 (47.1%), which is a team best in career shooting percentage.
James Neal was a regular in the shootout with the Pittsburgh Penguins but has only appeared four times this season. Of those four attempts, Neal has scored just once. The 27-year-old is 15-for-42 (35.7%) and has 8 game-deciding goals in his career, which is second most on the team. As the team’s leader in goals, it would only make sense to put a natural goal-scorer in the shootout lineup.
Neal’s shootout move is similar to Santorelli’s, except Neal is left-handed. He usually likes to take it wide on the right side, then he will go to the far side with speed and shoot with his forehand.
Arguably, Filip Forsberg had the best hands on the Predators. As the team’s scoring leader with 51 points (20 goals, 31 assists), the 20-year-old is worthy of winning the Calder Trophy. Forsberg is 3-for-7 in his rookie season and leads the team in game-deciding goals with 3. He is clutch, so he should be the third, and last, shooter.
Shea Weber (if necessary)
No this is not a joke. It is baffling to think that Shea Weber is not used as often as he should be in a one-on-one with the opposing goaltender. With a blistering slap-shot of 108.5 mph, not many goalies are going to want stop the puck from the hash-marks. The only time Weber appeared in the shootout was in 2009-10 but did not score.
Matt Cullen (if necessary)
Matt Cullen has the second best career shooting percentage in Nashville, going 24-for-60 (40%). However, the 38-year-old has struggled this season, scoring on just 1-of-4 opportunities. When it gets to the fifth shooter, the Predators will need someone to come through for them. With a team leading nine career game-deciding goals, Cullen knows how to score under pressure.
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Colin Fitts is a Nashville Predators staff writer and is a credentialed media member of the Chicago Wolves. From Nashville, Tennessee, Colin majors in journalism and public relations at Columbia College Chicago. Follow him on Twitter, @FittsTHW. Email: 22fitts [at] gmail [dot] com.