By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — In terms of real, actual hockey, there was plenty to dislike about the Bruins’ effort on Monday night in Philadelphia. It was a night when the Bruins led 2-0, then 3-1, then 4-2, and then 5-2, before letting the Flyers score three goals over the final 27 minutes to force overtime. Head coach Bruce Cassidy called the work of his players “unprofessional.”
It was pretty bad. But it also could have been alleviated if the Bruins had just some level of competence in the skills competition that follows overtime.
Alas, the Bruins’ woes in the shootout continued, and they did so in rare fashion.
Brad Marchand hopped over the boards in the fifth round of the shootout, needing a goal to keep his team alive after Travis Konecny had scored the shootout’s first goal to start that fifth round. Marchand entered the night with zero goals on six shootout attempts this season. He has scored the 11th-most goals in the entire NHL over the past three seasons, but he’s now just 2-for-17 on shootout attempts in that same time. (He had been 7-for-27 on shootouts over the previous five seasons.)
And this attempt … never even made it out of the center ice faceoff circle.
Marchand whizzed past the puck, barely nicking it with the blade of his stick. Based on the rules, this counted as his attempt, and the game was over.
Brad Marchand overskates the puck on his shootout attempt, Flyers win the game pic.twitter.com/yfPha5H8gb
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) January 14, 2020
This whiff was, obviously, an outlier. But the bluntness of losing a game like that served as a perfect picture to illustrate just how poorly the Bruins have performed in shootouts this year — a problem which extends throughout Cassidy’s tenure as head coach.
Monday’s shootout loss was the Bruins’ seventh of the season, by far the most in the NHL. Philly, coincidentally, has the second-most shootout losses, but they have a respectable 5-5 record in the skills competition. Two teams — Chicago and New Jersey — have four shootout losses, but they also have two wins apiece.
The Bruins have now scored goals on just four of their 30 shootout attempts this season, good for a 13.3 percent success rate. That’s not the worst mark in the NHL. The Blues are just 1-for-12 (8.3%), the Avalanche are 0-for-2, and the Kings are 0-for-4. Those teams, obviously, have not had nearly as many opportunities of the Bruins, though.
In terms of shootout goaltending, Bruins goalies have been just slightly below league average this year, stopping 18 of 29 shots for a .621 save percentage. That ranks 21st in the league.
The issues are nothing new.
Going back to the start of the 2017-18 season, which was Cassidy’s first full year behind the bench, the Bruins are tied for having the most shootout losses in the NHL with 13.
The Bruins have managed to reach that mark despite playing in four and five fewer games than the other two teams that share that distinct dishonor.
Over the past three seasons, the Bruins are a miserable 5-13 in the shootout. That .278 winning percentage in shootouts is better than only the Ottawa Senators, who have gone 2-11 over that same span. The Senators have also been hovering around last place that entire time; the Bruins were a couple of breaks away from hoisting the Cup last June.
Over the last three years, the Winnipeg Jets lead the NHL with a 44.7 percent success rate on shootout attempts. The Blackhawks are close behind at 43.9 percent, followed by the Oilers (43.8 percent), Lightning (41.5 percent) and Capitals (40.4 percent) to round out the top five.
The Bruins rank dead last, at 19.1 percent.
Considering the Bruins rank fifth in the NHL in real goals scored during that time, the failure to translate that goal-scoring ability to shootouts is fascinating to observe. For the Bruins, it must be excruciating.
Making the Bruins’ shootout issues stand out even more is the fact that prior to this season, they actually got some very good goaltending in shootouts. In 2017-18 and 2018-19, Bruins goalies ranked eighth in the NHL with a .741 save percentage in shootouts. Despite that strong goaltending, they managed to go just 5-6 over the two seasons.
Now that the goaltending has dipped this season, the record has plummeted to 0-7.
The net result, obviously, is a failure to tack on points in the standings that could prove useful come April. They’re still eight points ahead of Tampa in the division, but they also trail Washington by a point for the best record in the conference. They likewise trail the Blues by a point for the most in the NHL.
It’s not just the shootout. They’ve been bad in overtime, too, as they’re 3-5 in games that end in overtime. They’ve now gained the extra point just three times on 15 games that have extended beyond 60 minutes. While it would be unfair to expect the Bruins to scoop up all 12 of those points, the fact is that a contender should be winning at least half the time. The Bruins are picking up that extra point at a grisly .200 clip.
By even the gentlest level of expectations, they should have five or six extra standings points and a comfortable lead perched atop the entire NHL. Alas, despite their talent level, they do not.
And while there’s still a ways to go in this season, if the Bruins end up losing out on home ice, their issues in the shootout will certainly be looked at as reason No. 1.