Full disclosure: I hate the overtime shootout. I always have, always will. The only thing that’s worse is taking the shootout and making it best-of-3 instead of best-of-5.
However, that the Komets are now 1-6 in shootouts and lost six in a row is befuddling and a big reason that they are now 23-18-9, on the heels of the 3-2 loss to the Wichita Thunder in a shootout at Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday night.
“We can’t win a shootout to save our lives, so I don’t really know what you want me to say,” coach Gary Graham said, after confirming that defenseman Jason Binkley broke his arm during overtime.
The Komets, who may have Justin Hodgman back Friday, have now scored on only 5 of 32 shootout attempts this season.
J.C. Campagna has been the only reliable shooter, converting on 3 of 6 attempts.
Graham, who certainly wasn’t in the mood to be interviewed Wednesday (and I don’t blame him because the narrative of late hasn’t changed much with his team), was asked by yours truly if maybe the answer was just to try different personnel in the shootout.
He proceeded to pull a roster of statistics out of his pocket, note that he had made a change tonight (putting Anthony Petruzzelli along with Campagna and Shawn Szydlowski to the tune of 0 for 3) and read the following shootout statistics: Campagna 3 of 6; Szydlowski 1 of 7; Brady Shaw 0 of 3; Marco Roy 0 of 3; Petruzzelli 0 for 2; Jake Kamrass 0 for 1; Jamie Schaafsma is 0 for 3; Ryan Lowney 0 for 2; Mason Baptista 0 for 0.
His point: Who can you rely on?
“What else ya got?” Graham asked.
Well, I certainly don’t see the shootout practices and track who’s hot and not, so I don’t pretend to know all the ins and outs of this. But I do know that it can’t get any worse than it’s been. And I felt Kamrass was one of the best players on the ice Wednesday and is one of the most offensively gifted players in the league, with 16 goals in 48 games, so it seems off that he’s got only one shootout chance. And Mason Baptista, that might be worth a shot. Heck, roll Garrett Clarke out there, it’s not like anyone is going to complain from the stands at this point.
Grasping at straws? Maybe, but I’m just presenting ideas here.
I asked captain Jaime Schaafsma if the Komets are just experiencing bad luck in the shootouts.
“It’s definitely a skill,” Schaafsma said. “Some guys get more opportunities and are better suited at it than others. I wouldn’t say it’s luck. But I think our goalies have done well – (Zach Fucale) is a hard goalie in the shootout to beat for sure – and you have to give credit to that team, which has some scorers. It seems like even our scorers, guys who typically are going to score, or who we have a lot of faith in to score, they’ve been struggling. But we’ve got to keep on working and keep getting better.”
Then I asked, maybe it was just mental?
“Hockey is a very confidence game for some guys,” Schaafsma said. “When some guys get down on themselves or things aren’t going their way, they can get down on themselves. That’s why I think it’s important for us to remain positive. It can’t be all doom and gloom around here.”
There were three positives out of Wednesday’s game: they gained point in the standings that gave them sole possession of fourth place in the Central Division and pulled them within two points of third-place Kalamazoo; it was salvaged by Roy’s shot from the right circle in the third period in his first game back from Laval of the higher-level American Hockey League; and Kamrass had one of the prettiest plays of the season to set up a Cody Sol goal, skating to his right, then his left, then his right before sending a cross-ice pass for Sol’s one-timer goal.
But the wretched start was what haunted the Komets against Wichita (21-26-9), which is 8-13-6 on the road. The Komets (23-18-9, 11-9-5 at the Coliseum) are 2-4-8 in their last 14 games and that includes a 0-3-4 mark at home since their last home victory – Jan. 12 against the Utah Grizzlies.
“I hated our first period,” Graham said. “I thought we were disgusting in the first period. I thought our compete on faceoffs was horrendous in the first, but in the second and third it got a lot better. We had a lot of guys who lost some one-on-one battles early on, but it got better. But again, these flat starts are disgusting.”