It’s plausible that most – if not all – of the 14 teams that miss the 2014 playoffs will end up with “What if?” questions. Some will be deeper than others (“What if we had competent management/better players?”), yet the New Jersey Devils may find a more obvious flaw if they fall short in 2013-14. Simply put, they’ve been glaringly impotent in shootouts.
With Saturday’s 2-1 shootout defeat to the New York Islanders, the Devils are now a stunning 0-10 in the “skills competition.” Stretching back to 2012-13, they’ve now lost a jarring 13 shootouts in a row.
To put things in perspective, if they merely went .500 (5-5) in shootouts, they’d have 82 points on the season and 36 wins. That would leave them as the second wild card team ahead of the Detroit Red Wings … and that assumes those wins wouldn’t take anything away from other bubble teams.
(These things can get tricky when you start to ponder alternate sports universes, so let’s just move on.)
The Devils aren’t totally out of the playoff mix as of this moment; Sports Club Stats gives them a 17.2 percent chance to make it. Still, of all the bad breaks New Jersey has received (Cory Schneider getting poor goal support, Michael Ryder going ice cold, etc.), the team’s stunning shootout struggles might be their true Achilles heel.
(On this note, the only NHL team with comparable struggles is the Nashville Predators, who are 1-8 in that area right now.)
Apparently Blue Jackets management is a little shaken by the second 0-3-0 start in franchise history, however.
Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen shared his shock and dismay with the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline on Tuesday.
“I’m surprised how, in just five days, we’ve gone from a very confident group to something that’s the opposite of that,” Kekalainen told The Dispatch on Tuesday. “Our confidence, our game … it’s off the rails right now.
Maybe losing to the Buffalo Sabres stings a little bit extra?
Kekalainen said “there’s no excuse for how we played in Buffalo,” pointing out that every team in the NHL is a “good team.”
Indeed, just about every squad boasts some dangerous weapons if they catch an opponent sleeping.
Portzline goes deeper on Columbus’ recent history of stumbling out of the gate, but consider the foreboding stretch coming up.
Next four games: Three out of four at home Eight games following that: Seven out of eight on the road.
As you can see, winter is coming for Columbus, so they best get things together. All things considered, this is the right time for a wake-up call.
For bonus chuckles, here’s a photo of Kekalainen on a railing.
He entered the building considerably later than usual, but his presence at least opened the door for the possibility of No. 8 suiting up against the San Jose Sharks.
Instead, the Capitals will face the hot-starting Sharks without Ovechkin (personal reasons) and Nicklas Backstrom (injury).
That’s a tall order, yet it’s also an opportunity for Barry Trotz to prove his system is a difference-maker … and that the Capitals have the young players to take up the mantle when the big stars are out
This is how Washington’s forward lines may look tonight:
With Ovechkin out, Caps lines look like this: