Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Wednesday, October 22, 2021

When Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson pulled goaltender Vesa Toskala after 65 minutes of play versus the Anaheim Ducks last night, he was relying upon backup Curtis Joseph’s better career success rate in one-on-one shootout situations.

It didn’t work, as the Ducks popped the shots past the ice-cold Joseph and left Wilson to defend the unusual move.

Like a manager in baseball, Wilson was certainly playing the percentages with a closer. Joseph had been scored on 28 per cent of the time in penalty shots with a 5-3 record while Toskala had been beaten with 54 per cent of the attempts and sported a dismal 2-9 record…

“Tonight it didn’t work, but it’s the law of averages,” [Wilson] said. “We’re going to keep practicing it. It’s like a three-foot putt. If you don’t practice it, you never know if you can make them. And that’s all that a shootout really is, practicing three-foot putts, making 100 of them in a row and that’s what we have to do.”

I’m not clear as to whether or not Joseph knew ahead of time that he’d get the call in the event that the game went to shootout. If so, then he’d be at least somewhat prepped, mentally if not physically. If not, then Wilson really flubbed by subbing in completely cold goaltending. (Of longer-term concern: Did Toskala know that he’d bow out if it came to a shootout?)

And is that right, that the situational stats being considered between Toskala and Joseph were for penalty shots? That’s not quite the same thing as shootout attempts — similar, but not the same. The penalty shot comes within the flow of the game, and is one-and-done; the shootout comes at the end, and is a game-within-a-game series of shot/save attempts. The differences are subtle, but since we’re talking about changing the tone of the gameplay, such distinctions count for plenty.

Anyway, this substitution tactic might herald a future trend for National Hockey League action. Except that, ever since the shootout was instituted in 2005, it’s been a losing proposition:

On Nov. 22 [2005], Mika Noronen of the Buffalo Sabres aggravated a groin injury while giving up a goal on the first shot of a shootout against New York Rangers centre Martin Straka. The NHL rulebook says goalies can be replaced in a shootout if there’s an injury and in came Martin Biron who gave up two goals on two shots to lose the game.

Edmonton Oilers goalie Ty Conklin earned a 3-3 tie after three periods and overtime against the Dallas Stars on Mar. 7, 2006. But Edmonton head coach Craig MacTavish brought in backup goalie Mike Morrison because he had not lost in five previous shootouts. That move also failed, as Morrison gave up two goals on the first two shots in the shootout to lose the game.

On Oct. 26, 2006, Atlanta Thrashers goalie Johan Hedberg earned a 2-2 tie after three periods and overtime against the Philadelphia Flyers. Atlanta head coach Bob Hartley brought in Kari Lehtonen, who gave up two goals on three shots in the shootout to lose the game.

So to date, no replacement goalie in any given shootouts have ever tallied the extra point and are a combined 1-for-9 in saves.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 10/22/2008 07:15:17 PM
Category: Hockey
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  1. Puck Headlines: Defense is legion of doomed in Philadelphia…

    … A fantastic breakdown of why Ron Wilson’s goalie decision in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ shootout this week was a rotten one, historically. [Population Statistic]…

    Trackback by Puck Daddy - A Y! Sports Blog — 10/23/2008 @ 10:37:00 AM

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