Sunday, February 5, 2012

Shootout Dilemma: play a losing hand, or play to win?

I know goalies, (by their nature of BEING goalies), are fragile creatures. That's a given.

But the Minnesota Wild cannot continue to work like hell for 65 minutes, then stand by on the bench and watch, as Niklas Backstrom consistenly loses games in the shootout.

Michael Russo had some stats on this today in the S-T: as we already know, Backstrom is the WORST SHOOTOUT GOALIE in the entire NHL. Backstrom is an embarrassing 15-28 lifetime, with a .563 save percentage. This season, he is 3-4, and opponents have scored on 12 of 22 shot attempts, for a miserable .450 save percentage.

To work as hard as the Wild did last night vs. the Dallas Stars, and have all that effort come down to that galling stat, is ridiculous.

I'm sorry, but radical problems (such as losing shootouts and standings points) require radical solutions. I know this would hurt the psyche of possibly the entire team, but it also might just serve as the ultimate wake-up call, if once -- just once -- Josh Harding replaced Backstrom for the shootout. Harding could start on the bike (to get warmed up without getting too far away from the bench,) a few minutes before the end of regulation. That would also send a signal to the rest of the team, to get their act together -- NOW -- or else. If the game did indeed go to the shootout, Harding could come out like the Knight in shining armor, after the ice was dry scraped for the shootout.

Yes, I know we are dealing with emotions and fragile psyches, but as I said earlier, to consistenly know that you have a better chance to LOSE the game if you go to the shootout, than to WIN the game in the shootout, has got to play on the entire squad as well. And, with the fragileness of which the Wild psyche has been since the disasterous game at MTS Centre in Winnipeg Dec. 13, the last thing the Wild need is to not be rewarded for their efforts, because their goaltending cannot survive play in the shootout.

Of course, there is another way to get around all this: win in regulation. Don't allow the other team to even get to the shootout. Then you wouldn't have to worry about your No. 1 goalie being a shootout sieve.

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