As the season has progressed, the Carolina Hurricanes have proven a point. Most pundits assumed that offensive production would be the team’s biggest weakness, but it’s holding its own so far, ranking 14th in the NHL with 2.62 goals per game. However, with an improving offense in mind, the results in the shootout have gotten no better.
Over the course of five seasons dating back to 2011-12, the Hurricanes have only won 12 of their 38 shootout attempts. The New Jersey Devils had 12 shootout wins alone in the 2011-12 season.
As seen on 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic in 2011 with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, there was an infamous shootout the Penguins held during practice at the end of every month to determine the next month’s “Mustache Boy.” Despite this contest not necessarily being the most serious, no one wanted to be forced to grow a mustache for a month. Therefore, there would be effort and creativity put in to avoid getting the mustache in the shootout.
Guess who won 10 of their 13 shootouts that season? The Pittsburgh Penguins.
It’s no secret that some NHL experts believe the shootout is pointless. Instead of conveying a team skill, like playing 3-on-3 for five minutes, a shootout solely focuses on a players’ personal skill one-on-one against a goalie. Despite this being the case for some, it is still a way to earn points and the Hurricanes haven’t made enough of it.
Over the past five seasons, the Canes have recorded a record in the shootout of 12-38 over that time span. There are several players like Chris Terry, Jussi Jokinen and Riley Nash who have had success in the shootout with the Hurricanes, but overall the team is somewhere between awful and abysmal.
It’s not just the players who have been terrible. The goalies are not holding up their end of the bargain either. Cam Ward has only won 6 of his 20 shootout attempts since 2011-12.
With the skill level the Hurricanes have had over the years, they really should have had more of an opportunity to win. But if they do practice the shootout occasionally at practice, it isn’t frequent enough to make a difference.
Jeff Skinner has converted just 6 of his 34 shootout attempts and pretty much goes for the same move every time. While with the Hurricanes, Eric Staal made 3 of his 14 attempts and never even deked, he just shot. Jaccob Slavin, a defenseman, is 50 percent on shootouts, going 3 for 6 in his career.
Adam Proteau of The Hockey News says that the shootout is not fixable by coaching or practice. I disagree: you can’t teach someone intangibles like great hands, but you can work on it to get better.
So what exactly would another 20 minutes or a half-hour after practice do for them, when it's all but impossible to replicate the game conditions (including thousands of screaming fans potentially attempting to intimidate them) of an actual shootout?
That might actually be the dumbest question I’ve ever heard. It raises the question: why practice in the first place?
Players can simply work on their creativity when practicing a shootout. The thing about a shootout is if you want to score, you need to be unpredictable, which is the reason why Slavin has been successful so far in his young career.
Although hockey IQ has something to do with it, Slavin had preformed his go-to shootout move in prior shootouts and to be successful, he had to use creativity to get the win.
For the Hurricanes to get better at the shootout, and not leave valuable points on the table, they need to get in a line at center ice and practice more. There are too many players on the Hurricanes with a high level of skill to have their shootout numbers suffer simply because it isn’t practiced enough, and those points will come in mighty handy come April.