The Pittsburgh Penguins rallied from a two-goal third period deficit on Tuesday night in Chicago only to lose in a shootout, 3-2, to the Chicago Blackhawks.
It was a game where the Penguins carried the play all night and were the better team for pretty much the entire game only to have some tough luck and be unable to get a save in the shootout.
That game came just a couple of days after their most recent outing, a 5-4 shootout loss to the Minnesota Wild where they squandered a two-goal third period lead.
It was a game where the Penguins carried the play for most of the night and were the better team, only to have some tough luck and be unable to get a save in the shootout.
Same result. Just a slightly different path in getting there. The common denominators were the Penguins probably deserving a better result overall, and being unable to get a save in the shootout.
The former problem is easy to solve: Stick with process, trust the process, and trust that as long as you keep outplaying teams you will eventually get the results to go your way, especially when you get the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Brian Dumoulin, and Marcus Pettersson back in the lineup and no longer have $30 million on salary cap space sitting out of the lineup.
The latter problem is a little more difficult. Just what in the heck is wrong with Tristan Jarry when it comes to making saves in the shootout? Because right now he seems nearly incapable of it.
He has participated in three shootouts this season and allowed seven goals on 10 attempts.
The Penguins have lost all three shootouts against Dallas, Minnesota, and Chicago, giving away three potential points in the standings.
He also allowed a penalty shot goal to the New Jersey Devils earlier this season to help decide that game, costing them at least a point (and perhaps two points).
That shootout performance pushes Jarry’s career shootout numbers to a 3-5 record and a .567 save percentage, stopping only 17 out of the 30 shots he has faced.
(He is two-for-four stopping penalty shots in his career.)
That .567 save percentage is among the worst all-time in the shootout.
Just how bad is it? There have been 125 goalies that have appeared in at least eight shootouts since the tiebreaking skills competition was introduced to the NHL at the start of the 2005-06 season. That .567 mark places him 116th out of that group, ahead of only Niklas Backstrom, Antti Raanta, Curtis Sanford, Brian Boucher, Martin Biron, Robin Lehner, Ty Conklin, Vesa Toskala, and Sean Burke.
Of the 42 goalies to participate in at least eight shootouts since Jarry joined the NHL, only Lehner and Mike Smith are worse during that stretch.
In short, he struggles in this area more than just about any other goalie that has ever participated in them, and at this point I am not really sure what the Penguins do about that.
Is it small sample size noise? It is certainly possible given that he has only taken part in eight of them. But when you add in the penalty shot numbers his save percentage in shootout/penalty shot situations is .558 (19-for-34) in his career. That is bad.
Is it something that can be fixed with more attention to it in practice? The Penguins do not seem to practice shootouts as much as they used to, which might play somewhat of a small role in it.
Is it something that needs to even be stressed about? How much of an impact does it REALLY make in the big picture? You probably only have a handful of shootouts per season, it does not exist in the playoffs, and some of it might just be randomness.
All of that is certainly true, and if you are team solidly in a playoff spot it probably is not anything to be overly concerned about. The problem right now is the Penguins are not solidly in a playoff spot, and a couple of points could be the difference between missing the playoffs and making the playoffs later this season.
(I still think they are going to make the playoffs. Even though they only have 12 points in 11 games, it is important to keep in mind they only had 11 points through 11 games a year ago and still ended up winning the most difficult, competitive division in the league in only a 56-game season. This team has also had half of its roster for most of this season and will be getting major players back in the lineup very soon.)
What is frustrating about it is the fact Jarry has, for the most part, played very well this season during regulation and even into overtime with a save percentage north of .925 for the season so far. He can also stop breakaways during those situations, just as he did in the third period on Tuesday night just before Jeff Carter’s second goal of the third period to tie the game and send it to overtime. They do not seem to phase him. As soon as things shift over to a shootout, though, and it becomes just him and a shooter on the ice, everything just goes sideways for him and he can not make the saves.
The only other option you have, other than more practice and hoping he plays his way out of it, would be actually swapping goalies for the shootout. But I am not even sure if that accomplishes what you want. Aside from it being nearly unheard of to go to a cold goalie in that situation, there is also the human element of what it might do to Jarry’s confidence level to be pulled in that spot. Would the results be worse than what we have seen so far? They could not be, if we are speaking objectively here. But do you want to risk impacting his play in other, more important situations by shattering confidence? Casey DeSmith does have a .786 save percentage in his four career shootout appearances, but none of those situations are with him entering the game cold at that point.
The best hope is probably just that Jarry keeps playing the way he has in regulation and figures it out in his shootout opportunities at some point this season.