The Blue Jackets, coming off an impressive come-from-behind win Friday night in Vancouver, had seemingly shrugged off the disappointment of Tuesday's trading deadline.
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Departing captain Adam Foote, the subject of a heated exchange of words via the media following his trade back to Colorado, was alleged to be the glue that held together the locker room. Though his presence may be missed, the team has moved on and their play has vastly improved of late.
Against the Oilers on Sunday night, the Blue Jackets may have played their best road game of the year through forty minutes, but a bizarre 20-second stretch late in the third period cost them two points.
The season thus far has been a myriad of "what ifs" for the Blue Jackets--ranging from "what if they signed a top scorer last summer" to "what if they acquired Brad Richards at the deadline."
The real "what if" lies within their putrid record in overtime. With ten overtime and shootout losses, they are tied for most in the league with Toronto and St. Louis.
Currently sitting four points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, it may very well be that a couple of extra points will cost the Blue Jackets their first postseason berth. Had they won less than half of the games lost in the extra session, they would be tied for the eighth spot. Win five, and they have a one-point cushion over ninth place.
Simple math, but a perplexing situation.
How can a team with a 5-of-7 shootout sniper in Nikolai Zherdev and arguably one of the best young players in the league in Rick Nash be stymied so often in shootouts? Add to the mix veterans Michael Peca, David Vyborny and Fredrik Modin (also former Blue Jacket Sergei Fedorov), and one would like their chances in the skills competition.
Quality of shots has become an issue. I'm one of the big advocates of resisting the urge to deke goaltenders out of their jocks in the shootout. In today's game, with goalie pads as thick and flexible as they are, and goaltenders being as athletic as ever, the odds are against the shooter if they attempt a fancy move. More often than not, we see the puck roll off the stick, goalies poke-check shooters and many other variables.
The Blue Jackets, save for Zherdev, don't shoot the puck enough in the shootout. Nash has a deke fantasy--sometimes it works (ask Chris Osgood), but the frequent occurrence is a missed attempt. Perhaps most confusing was Modin's knack for attempting dekes in last year's shootouts. It doesn't make any sense.
It goes without saying that if you shoot the puck, your odds of scoring increase greatly.
Unfortunately for the Blue Jackets, their playoff hopes may come down to an untimely decision to go for the dramatics.
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