As far as the whole trouble-winning-the-shootout thing is concerned, Robin Lehner is nothing if not a good sport. So, after the Chicago Blackhawks netminder dropped a 2-1 decision against the Dallas Stars Saturday, the 22nd shootout loss of his big-league career, Lehner took to – where else? – Twitter to seek advice.
“I wanna hear from all the experts in the media on what my new shootout strategy should be,” Lehner wrote. “I’m all ears. The shootout is not hockey so I gotta learn this sport somehow and hopefully one of the experts can help me as all my goalie coaches haven’t been able to yet.”
Lehner’s tongue was, of course, firmly planted in his cheek, and chances are we won’t be seeing the 28-year-old netminder adopting any of the methods put forth by the all-knowledgable anonymous eggs of Twitter. That said, Lehner probably isn’t wrong suggesting he needs to find a new plan of attack for the game-deciding skills competition. After all, since the shootout was adopted coming out of the NHL’s lost season, there aren’t many netminders who have been worse. In fact, if one looks at shootout success among goaltenders with a sample size of at least 50 shots against, Lehner finds himself right smack-dab at the bottom.
Throughout his career, of which he has spent the past seven as a full-time NHL netminder, Lehner has played in 30 shootouts and faced 94 shooters. His record is a meager 8-22, good for a .267 winning percentage, and among the 87 goaltenders who have faced at least 50 shots against, Lehner’s .521 save percentage puts him at the bottom of the heap. He also allowed the 38th-most goals against and is the only netminder with at least 40 goals against who has faced fewer than 100 shots. So, yes, it's not his forte, to say the least.
But Lehner isn't alone. Other goaltenders have faced similar difficulty in the shootout. So, who shouldn't – and who should – Lehner be looking to for advice? Excluding the Blackhawks goaltender, here are the five worst and five best shootout keepers since its introduction:
7-13 record – 63 shots against, 33 saves, .524 SP
Famously brought in to backstop the Maple Leafs and provide them with some consistency in the crease, it could be argued – easily, some might say – that Toskala did the opposite in Toronto. In his 145 games in the blue paint with the Buds, Toskala mustered a mere .894 SP and a goals-against average above three. His play in the shootout didn’t help him rack up any wins, either. During his time with the Maple Leafs, he went 7-9 in shootouts and mustered a .542 SP on 48 shots against.
8-11 record – 55 shots against, 29 saves, .527 SP
Conklin carved out a nice, if not spectacular, career as a second-stringer, and his 96-67-21 record speaks to that, as does his .906 SP. As it so happens, too, his .527 SP in the shootout belies his actual record, which really isn’t all that bad at three games below even. Of the six teams he played for during his career, Conklin appeared in shootouts for five and didn’t have a winning shootout record with any of 'em. He was 3-3 with the Detroit Red Wings, though. Helps when Pavel Datsyuk is on your side.
10-17 record – 76 shots against, 41 saves, .539 SP
Biron was quite possibly one of the most reliable backups in the NHL throughout his time in the league. His 230-191-52 record, .910 SP and 2.61 GAA speaks volumes about his ability as a second-stringer. Despite his winning record across his career, however, Biron had periods of sustained struggle in the shootout. He had stretches where he dropped five consecutive and three consecutive decisions while with the Philadelphia Flyers, and the final three shootouts of his career were all losses.
5-11 record – 50 shots against, 28 saves, .560 SP
His big-league career was fairly brief, spanning 144 total appearances across six seasons, but Sanford went to the shootout 16 times. The first four were losses, but it seemed like Sanford had figured it out after that. In January and February 2006, he went on a run of three shootout wins in a row. Not bad! Unfortunately, what followed was a run of six consecutive shootout defeats spanning from March 2006 to November 2011. Not good!
23-34 record – 188 shots against, 106 saves, .564 SP
The longtime Minnesota Wild standout and one-time Vezina Trophy finalist was steady as they came during his best years. He couldn’t catch a break in the shootout, though. There were seven instances throughout Backstrom’s career that he dropped three shootout decisions in a row, including four runs of four losses in a row. One of the most soul-crushing was undoubtedly his October 2011 loss to the Ottawa Senators. Backstrom stopped 41 shots and then lost the skills competition. Oof.
13-4 record – 57 shots against, 49 saves, .860 SP
If Lehner is looking for tips, he might want to have a pre-game chat with Vasilevskiy when the Blackhawks head to Tampa Bay in February. Since the Lightning netminder dropped a shootout against the Montreal Canadiens in January 2018, Vasilevskiy has only suffered one shootout defeat in his past nine attempts. Of his 17 career shootouts, he’s only suffered back-to-back losses once. And in the past three seasons, he’s only allowed four goals against on 34 shots in the shootout.
8-7 record – 59 shots against, 48 saves, .814 SP
Funny to find Khudobin on the list, because the shootout victory that put him above .500 for his career was the Saturday win against the Lehner and the Blackhawks. Coincidentally, that also means one of the keepers with the best shootout SPs in league history was in one crease and one of the netminders with the worst shootout SPs in league history was in the other. Despite his stellar numbers, though, the Saturday victory was only Khudobin’s second in his past six shootouts.
14-10 record – 88 shots against, 69 saves, .784 SP
Hey, maybe his late-career rise has been spurred on by coach Barry Trotz and the presence of goaltending guru Mitch Korn, but Greiss has long been one of the elite shootout netminders in the NHL. He has won his past four shootout decisions, five of his past six and six of his past eight. As for his most recent shootout defeat, it was an absolute heart-breaker. He stopped all 41 shots he faced against the high-octane Lightning only for Tampa Bay counterpart Vasilevskiy to get the win in the skills competition. Ouch.
13-7 record – 87 shots against, 67 saves, .770 SP
Say what you will for Jones’ performance during the actual run of play, but he remains one of the best shootout keepers since the competition was introduced. Since he broke into the league in 2013-14, only 27 netminders have faced more shots against in the shootout, and his 67 saves are tied for the 21st most. Despite his success, however, Jones is mired in a bit of a shootout rut. He's only 6-4 since the start of the 2017-18 campaign. Doesn’t help that the Sharks didn’t score a single shootout goal last season.
7-9 record – 55 shots against, 42 saves, .764 SP
Johnson is among the top-five netminders in terms of shootout SP since its introduction, yet he has a losing record. Talk about bad luck. He lost six in a row while a member of the Washington Capitals, including five straight during the 2006-07 season. Maybe that shouldn’t be too surprising, though, because the Capitals scored just five goals and managed one win in 12 shootouts that season. Ugly. Johnson deserved better.
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