There was a time when the Buffalo Sabres were almost automatic in the shootout. Daniel Briere would pull off some amazing deke and score—and even if he missed Ales Kotalik and Thomas Vanek were there to pick up the pieces.
But Briere has moved onto bigger and more expensive places, Ales Kotalik has begun to travel from team-to-team, and Vanek, well, he doesn’t participate in the shootout anymore—at least not regularly.
Drew Stafford had taken over the responsibilities in the shootout for a little while, but has been ineffective as of late. Stafford is just two of seven in the shootout this season.
Currently, most of the Sabres are struggling in the extra-extra period, and as a result Buffalo has a 3-6 record in the shootout
From a percentage prospective, Jochen Hecht—of all players—has scored on three of four opportunities and leads the team at 75 percent.
If Hecht surprised you as one of Buffalo’s best shooters, then one of Buffalo’s worst shooters might surprise you even more. Tim Connolly—known for his puck control—has scored just once this season on seven attempts in the shootout.
But the most impressive shooter for Buffalo has been Jason Pominville. He does not resort to fancy dekes and maneuvers, he simply finds an opening and snipes the puck through it. Pominville’s opening of choice has been the five-hole more times than not.
What amazes me is that the goalies have not picked up on it by now. Many of the goalies throughout the league study video footage of the shooters and look at their tendencies. Well, Pominville has shot from about 15 feet out on every one of his attempts so far this season without deking one—and he has scored on four of eight.
But like many teams, the backbone of the shootout lies in net for the Sabres. Ryan Miller has been the gold standard of shootout goalies throughout most of his career, but has struggled significantly this season.
Miller has stopped just 18 of the 29 shooters he has faced to this point. His career shootout save percentage was around .730 at the start of the season, but has dipped to .709 after his recent stretch.
To his credit, Miller is third all-time in shootout wins, trailing only Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Brodeur.
While the Sabres are struggling in the shootout lately, it’s just a matter of time before the right pieces fall into place again—or at least the right shooters are traded for.