I'm starting to wonder if Senators' head coach Bryan Murray doesn't fancy himself a bit of a contrarian. How else can you explain his shootout selections? How do you consistently leave Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley on the bench? How else do you explain Murray's comments about his playoff goaltending plans?
After the 4-3 shootout loss in Pittsburgh last night, Murray complained that the Sens' 2 and 5 record is unacceptable. What I find unacceptable is consistently trotting out Dean McAmmond, Antoine Vermette and Mike Comrie. You play that card once in a while. Maybe as punishment to the big three. Maybe a hunch, playing the hot hand on a given night.
But when the puck rolled off the stick of Antoine Vermette for his fifth shootout failure of the season, I said to myself, enough already. You had some brief success with these guys, Bryan. We know. You looked like a genius. Ohhhh, great discoverer of untapped shootout magic. Way to go. Now let's get back to being reasonable.
There's no guarantee of shootout success. Never is. But you have to play the percentages. Every single time. Even if David Ortiz is 0 for his last 18 at bats, the Red Sox still aren't going to let Julio Lugo pinch hit for him in the ninth. Murray keeps sending Julio Lugo out there.
This is only the second season of the shootout. Had the big 3 been shoved out there every single time, they'd be learning how to be great at shootouts. Learning little tricks and thought processes you need to be successful. In 15 shootouts, Murray has kept Spezza out of 12 of them. Alfredsson has been in just 1 of 7 shootouts this year.
Here are the full career shootout stats of the 6 players in question. Dean McAmmond has 3 goals in 11 tries. Mike Comrie 3/12, Antoine Vermette 2/8, Dany Heatley 3/11, Daniel Alfredsson 2/9 and Jason Spezza 0/4. Put in persepctive, the NHL's best (among those with 6 shots or more) include: Petteri Nummelin Min (a defenceman!) - 6/7, Slava Kozlov Atl 7/9, Brendan Morrison Van 6/8, Phil Kessel Bos 4/6, Marion Hossa Atl 5/8, Brian Gionta NJ 7/12, Paul Kariya 6/10, Erik Christensen 8/14.
Not one Senator has a dazzling track record. So if you don't have a specialist, which the Sens don't, let the big three roll. They have the hands and the vision and a much better chance of figuring it out.
You call that a vote of confidence?
I also shook my head this weekend, hearing Murray's comments on his playoff goaltending plans. When asked if Ray Emery would be the starting goalie for the playoffs, Murray replied, "To this point, I would say there's a real strong leaning that way. He's played the majority of the games so, unless he is dreadful, probably. Ray has been the answer to a number of our problems over the course of the year, but Martin's a very capable goaltender."
Probably? Unless he's dreadful? The answer to a number of problems? Easy, Bryan. You're going to embarrass Emery with all that praise.
I mean, what the hell is that?
I'll take "Things coaches should say about their goalie three weeks before the playoffs start" for 200, Alex.
All right. The answer? Ray Emery.
What is, "He's clearly our number one goalie. That's sort of a dumb question. He's obviously established himself as a star in this league. We believe he's a top 10 goalie right now and we believe he'll take us deep into the playoffs?"
Correct. Choose again.
I'll take, "Shootout selections" for 600, Alex.