I just finished going over the Calgary Flames shootout results over the past two seasons, hoping to find something – anything – to point at and say “you’re doing it wrong!”.
It's early, but it looks like Bob Hartley at least has an understanding of the way to go about giving your squad the best chance to win, namely shooting first when given the opportunity, something Brent Sutter was unable (or refused) to acknowledge.
IS SHOOTING FIRST THAT BIG OF AN ADVANTAGE?
In the past it's been said that the team who scores first wins 80% of shootouts. Obviously, shooting first gives you the best chance to score first. Home team gets to choose whether they'd like to shoot first or not and EVERY SINGLE TEAM the Flames have faced on the road has chosen to shoot first. It's what you do. Seven road games, Flames' opponent took first crack every time. In 6 home games at head coach, Sutter chose to let the opponent shoot first 3 times. Bob Hartley so far is 2 for 2 in choosing first shot. Progress?
Is 80% accurate? Honestly, I don't feel like digging up ALL of the data, but I CAN tell you the results for that figure in the 15 games the Flames have played in.
W/L Record of Team that Scores First: 11-4. Missing the 80% mark by 1 game, but seems to hold up OK. Calgary's opponents are 9-1 when scoring first. And, 6-0 overall in the last 6.
W/L Record of Team that Shoots First: 10-5. Not as high as scoring first, but still, 66%. Shoot first. Calgary's opponents are 9-2 when shooting first.
I'd love to see what the league-wide stats are on this because Calgary is historically bad at shootouts and it kind of skews this data.
At a glance though, it does support the shooting first theory. It was quite clear after the debacle in Minnesota last year that Sutter was basically just pulling names out of a hat – so at this point let's all just be happy that he's moved on.
COULD THE FLAMES HAVE FARED BETTER?
The Flames had opportunities to win in 5 of the 12 shootout losses. Meaning if they scored or made the save on the next attempt the shootout would have been over and they would have won.
In those 5 games the Flames were 0-9.
8 times the Flames shooter was stopped.
1 time Mikka Kiprusoff failed to make the save for the win.
That's 5 points in the standings lost on those very important attempts. 4 of those points last season and 1 from this season so far (Vancouver).
IS THERE A SOLUTION?
Hell if I know.
So, if we know that the team to score first has the best chance to win then shouldn't you lead off with your best shootout performer? Sure, give Blair Jones a chance, but don't start with him. Start with Hudler or Tanguay who seem to be shootout staples. Try to score first and put the pressure on the opponent to get the equalizer.
The other thing I’d like to see is some strategy put into the attempts. All you really need are two moves that begin similar, whether it’s two dekes or a deke and a shot, doesn’t matter. Jussi Jokinen used two moves to score on several consecutive attempts. It’s just something to give a prepared goalie a “change-up” and give the shooter their best advantage. Watching Jarome Iginla lag up to the goalie with no speed and then try to decide what he’s going to do before jamming it into the pad is painful, yet it seems to be his “move”. Lee Stempniak seems to aim for the crest.
*NOTE: Shooting into the chest should NOT be one of the moves.*
Little pro tip there.
The bottom line from all of these numbers is that the Flames are bad at the shootout. Like, bad. And, last night, they most likely weren’t going to win the shootout with Leland Irving in goal and his performance(?). However, they have to start to give themselves the best chance possible.