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.)