March 22 2013 10:11AM
My coworker from the team 1260, Dustin Nielson is down in the Oilers dressing room after every Oilers game. He finds out how the guys are feeling right after the game. After the loss in the shootout to the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday I shot him the following text....
Strudwick: How was the mood in the dressing room?
Nielson: They said they need to learn a lesson from this game but not as ticked off as I expected.
He goes on to say he thinks shootouts mess with teams’ emotions. If they lose the game in overtime, the team is more upset. Not sure why they seem less upset after a shootout loss.
I have been thinking and looking back at that text since I got it late Wednesday night. At first my gut reaction was to say Dustin is wrong, a loss is a loss, no matter the shape it comes it. After some thought and going through my own experiences I knew he was on to something.
When a game would remain tied after sixty minutes I always knew I would most likely get one shift, right in the middle of the overtime period. I needed to stay mentally focused and engaged in the game. There was no drifting off.
If the other team scored a goal during the four versus four portion of over time the whole team would take it hard. It felt like a real loss, a regulation loss. It was a team loss because we were all grinding it out as a group to try and get that one extra point.
I am not sure how many shootout games exactly I was a part of but it was many. When I think back I realize that once it got to the shootout I felt like my work was done for the night. The win or loss of a game was out of my hands. It had nothing to do with the whole team. No one would be getting a plus or minus. There would be no video of a defensive breakdown to watch with a coach the next day. Most often it was decided by six shooters, three from each team.
It really became an individual showcase of ability, a little luck and confidence. I remember joking many times with all the coaches about what number I was in the shootout order as the Zamboni was cleaning the ice. That kind of joking around would never happen during the four on four portion of overtime. The whole "TEAM" was still engaged in playing, not so in shootouts.
How many times have we all seen a team that is struggling with shoot out wins put their helmets on backwards to change their luck? Has that ever happened during the four versus four portion? Not that I have seen and never will!
After a loss in a shootout it feels different. Right or wrong, it almost feels like you tied the team portion of the night and lost the individual competition so it isn't a real loss. Don't get me wrong, the guys aren't going back into the room laughing and cheering after a shootout loss but I don't remember it hurting as much.
Funny how the outcome is the same, the loss of a point, but the feeling afterward is different. At least for me it was. It may not be that way for players that shoot often in the shootout. There is a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. They carry the pressure and expectations for the team as they skate in to dingle dangle a goalie.
Look at the Oilers. So far this season they have been involved in five shootouts. They have won two and lost three. If the Oilers shooters had been a little bit more deadly and they were undefeated, the team would be tied for a playoff position. Does that not make those three shootout attempts more valuable or important? Should there be more importance placed on them?
I have been trying to work out who is to blame for this more relaxed attitude. Is it on the players themselves for not understanding how valuable these points are? Maybe the coaches for not spending the practice time required sharpening both his shooters and goalies’ skill in this one vs .one battle? Maybe it is the league for putting this skill sideshow into effect?
I heard the answer from the Oilers head coach Ralph Kreuger that made the most sense. He called the shootout "a lottery". You nailed it, Ralph. You really never know who will be the winner, you just know you have a chance.
The best way to know exactly how a shootout will play out is to not get to one. Maybe teams should be more aggressive in the four vs. four, especially if you have a week record in the breakaways. That is probably a tough shift in thinking for any coach to do but wouldn't it be fun to see?
I like the shootout. I find it enjoyable to watch the great skill of these players and goalies on display. I also think it is okay for players to feel like it isn't a real loss when their shooters don't come through for them. Why should they? They battle the other team to a draw after sixty five minutes then just leave it up to a lottery from there? Not a "real" loss in my books.
What can you do?
Last night Marty Brodeur scored the third goal of his career. I don't think he will be telling the story of this one to his kids though.
Ugly, real ugly. I have only ever seen this once before. It was in a game I was playing in. The other team had a delayed penalty. Our center went to pass it to the point man who wasn't there. BOOM. Goal against. Good news was that we still got the PP.
Check out the reaction from the Hurricanes coach, Kirk Muller. I love it! But really, what can you say when your best player and captain shoots it into his own net.
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