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Pittsburgh Penguins 2019-20: best options for the shootout

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New faces means changes on the shootout lineup

Pittsburgh Penguins v Calgary Flames Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images

For better or for worse, the 3-on-3 overtime has severely limited the effects and sheer number of shootouts in the NHL regular season. The Pittsburgh Penguins, for instance, only had five shootouts in the 2018-19 season last year. Rewind that to 2013-14 and 2014-15 and it was 10 per season.

But considering last year the Pens had 100 points in the standings and were only a four point swing away from either winning the division or missing the playoffs completely, those extra points in the shooutout remain critical, though impossible to really plan for.

Pittsburgh was 2-3 last year in the skills competition, which is a bit surprising. Their shooters only scored on three shots in 15 attempts (20%) which was only the 20th best percentage in the league.

This off-season has been one of significant changes up front. Most notably Phil Kessel is gone. Kessel was 1 for 3 last year, and overall in his Pittsburgh career was a pretty respectable 5 for 14 (37%).

The absence of Kessel probably won’t sting too much since shootouts have been halved. The real sting here will be losing Kessel in overtime — Phil has seven OT GWG since 2015-16 which is first on the team and ranks sixth best in the league over his tenure as a Penguin. Kessel’s ability to exploit the extra space at 3v3 is what will be missed the most.

Regardless, here are the other Pittsburgh shootout shooters in 2018-19:

  • Jake Guentzel: 1 for 2 (50%)
  • Sidney Crosby 1 for 5 (20%)
  • Kris Letang 0 for 2 (0%)
  • Evgeni Malkin 0 for 3 (0%)

There’s not much added to the Pens as far as shootout experience. Neither Dominik Kahun nor Brandon Tanev or Jared McCann have as much as one career shootout attempt. Nick Bjugstad went 0 for 1 last year with Florida — but in his career he’s 11 for 32 (34.4%) for a pretty decent clip.

With Kessel’s departure from Pittsbugh, it’s only common sense that this opens more of an opportunity for Guentzel. Guentzel’s only two career attempts to date were in 2018-19. The Pens’ strategy since basically the shootout’s inception has been to use Letang-Crosby-Malkin, traditionally in that order. The health of the three have been the biggest factor and necessitated the biggest changes if one or more of the stars have been unavailable.

Letang is at 24/66 (36.4%) all-time for career shootout attempts, just one goal better than Malkin’s career mark of 23/66 (34.8%). As usual, Crosby is the best on the team and one of the best in the league at 39/96 (40.6%).

For 2019-20 the Pens don’t really have to reinvent the wheel. Crosby’s inclusion in the shootout lineup is a no-brainer. From there, the decision to make will be adding two of the three of Malkin, Letang and Guentzel. It would get interesting if the shootout extends past four rounds, being as other than Bjugstad only Patric Hornqvist has any career attempts (and even he’s but 0/1 as a Penguin). The Pens would be in some uncharted territory there and have to give young players some first time chances to determine what could be critical extra points in the standings for the end of the year.