After losing in a shootout last night to the rival Washington Capitals, Guy Boucher’s decision-making is being called into question. Not about how the Capitals had all the momentum from the last 5 minutes of regulation on, not about being unable to finish off chances, but about probably had the least to do with the loss: the shootout.
We’ll set aside the fact that the game should’ve been won way before that point anyway and jump into the conversation. Boucher sent out Dominic Moore, Adam Hall, and Vinny Lecavalier in that order against AHL call-up Braden Holtby in the skills competition. All three were denied, and Alex Ovechkin’s goal on the Capitals’ first attempt held up as the game-winner.
Why send out guys like Dominic Moore and Adam Hall while sitting stars like Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis? Only four members of the Lightning have scored in the shootout this season: Moore (3, 50%), Ryan Malone (2, 66.7%), Victor Hedman (2, 33.3%), and Hall (2, 28.6%). Of his three goals, Moore has scored the game-deciding goal in two of them.
Stamkos, St. Louis, and Lecavalier are a combined 0-for-12 in the shootout this season. Boucher was playing to his statistical strengths, something that is silly to criticize him for. The shootout requires a very specific skillset, and not all great players succeed at it (Ovechkin is another case-in-point on this).
What Boucher didn’t know is that Holtby is not the best shootout goalie. He is extremely inexperienced, and had lost the only other shootout he had participated in. Because he is so inexperienced, last night would have been as good a time as any to throw out the superstars, hoping they find their way.
There is always the possibility that seeing Stamkos or St. Louis coming down on him would’ve intimidated Holtby. Stamkos and St. Louis obviously need to improve in that area. Like it or not, the shootout matters and is part of the game now. Players must learn to add that to their arsenal.
There is also the fan impact to think of. At the end of the day, sports is an entertainment business. The fans pay for tickets to be entertained. For the most part, they aren’t sitting there hoping to see guys like Moore and Hall in the shootout over Stamkos and St. Louis. Whether or not you believe that should be a factor, it is.
It was a big game and Boucher wanted to go with the guys who had proven themselves. That’s fine, as he was also rewarding one of the most hard-working guys of the game in Adam Hall. But when faced with the opportunity to help boost the confidence of your superstars (particularly when Stamkos is slumping) and take advantage of a minor-league goalie, you have to seriously consider taking it.