Another shootout, another loss, as the Toronto Maple Leafs fell to the New York Rangers 3-2. Mats Zuccarello scored a rather simple goal by going five-hole on Leafs goalie James Reimer. All three of the Leafs' shooters went goalless.
Tyler Bozak was stopped, Nazem Kadri mishandled the puck trying repeat the goal Zuccarello scored earlier and Mikhail Grabovski decided to fire the puck off of Henrik Lundqvist's pads on a rather pedestrian effort.
The Leafs' demise in a shootout almost has me thinking they would be better off pulling him in overtime and playing the period with one extra man out there. But I doubt that will win over many fans losing a game on an empty-net goal.
James Reimer has been pretty solid in shootouts, despite the record he possesses. He ranks 15th in terms of shootout save percentage, which is pretty average amongst starting goalies in the NHL. Where the Leafs rank low is on shootout goal percentage, as they rank 29th in the NHL in that category.
To go off on a bit of a tangent, I believe that the shootout is a needless gimmick that the NHL has imposed on the players. It's essentially a skills competition to decide a game.
In no other sport do they decide games this way. In football, there is no 40-yard dash or quarterback accuracy competition. In basketball, we don't see LeBron James decide a game by winning a dunk contest after overtime. In baseball, there is no Home Run Derby to decide a game after 10 innings.
If the shootouts are good enough to decide whether a team makes the playoffs or not, then they should be used in the playoffs. However, the NHL abandons the shootouts and plays a continuous overtime period rather than possibly deciding the Stanley Cup on a three-against-three shootout contest.
In all seriousness, a 20-minute four-on-four overtime is probably best for the NHL. If there is no score after 20 minutes, the game results in a tie. Last year, the Florida Panthers made the playoffs despite having less wins than the Buffalo Sabres and Tampa Bay Lightning. They managed to get points for losing in overtime. In no other sport do they award teams for losing.
The Leafs are probably sharing my viewpoint, and it really shows in their performance in the shootouts.
The Leafs' shooters are atrocious and to me, that points directly at either the coach (Greg Cronin), who chooses the shooters, or you can point at the practice habits of the Leafs, who practice shootouts at the end of their regular-team practices.
The shooters shoot on Ben Scrivens and Reimer, two pretty inexperienced goalies.
Are the Leafs practicing the wrong way? Or are the goalies really just that easy to beat. Both Scrivens and Reimer's glove hands are far below average and both can be beat upstairs pretty easily.
In all fairness though, all of the Leafs' shooters lately—other than maybe Phil Kessel—have tried to either go five hole or shoot low. Both Leaf goalies are pretty good down low and stop a good majority of shots directed at the low portions of the net.
For Leaf fans, the only positive to this article is that the Leafs, despite their demise in the shootout, are still holding onto a playoff spot. Better yet, no playoff games are decided by a shootout, which gives them a leg up on their competition every time in extra time.
Share your thoughts on why the Leafs are terrible in shootouts. Is it Reimer? Is it the shooters? Where does the blame lie?
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