BRIGHTON, Mass – While it felt like a bit of ancient history because it was a couple of days ago and Kenny Agostino is now back in the AHL, Bruce Cassidy finally got a chance to address his shootout choices on Wednesday afternoon. For those that need a refresher, Cassidy selected the 25-year-old Agostino for Monday night’s shootout along with Brad Marchand as both failed to score in the extra-session loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The choice was more than a little curious given that either Patrice Bergeron or David Pastrnak wouldn’t be among Boston’s top three shooters, and was thoroughly ripe for second-guessing once the Bruins bowed out quickly in the shootout.
So what was Cassidy’s reasoning behind the Agostino choice?
“Some of it was preseason, he had a breakaway and scored, some of it was some success he’s had at the American League level and some of it was gut. He’s an offensive player that can finish off plays,” said Cassidy. “In hindsight, it’s a lousy call when he didn’t score and if he scores then it looks good.”
The B’s head coach went on to outline his overall philosophy in the shootout, and how some goal-scorers aren’t necessarily perfectly suited for shootout duties while citing the example of Alex Ovechkin with the Washington Capitals. It would seem that Marchand (7-for-28 with a 25 percent success rate) and Bergeron (25-for-85 with a 29.4 percent success rate) are players that Cassidy is going to roll with most of the time in the shootout, and instead appears to have reservations about using David Pastrnak (1-for-9 for a 11.1 percent success rate) given some shootout difficulties over the last few years.
“I think what happens in shootouts is that some guys that are natural goal-scorers, it doesn’t always translate to shootout success. You can look up the numbers. For some other guys it does,” said Cassidy. “It’s not an automatic that your leading scorer [will be in the shootout]. A quick release in the shootout matters, but it might not matter as much as it does five-on-five. With some guys having success and some guys not having success, it’s about their ability going 1-on-1 against the goalie. When the goalie is set and ready, they might not be able to beat them with what’s natural for them.
“I might be out of line here, but I don’t know how often Alex Ovechkin goes out there [for the shootout] and he’s one of the best natural goal-scorers there is with one of the hardest shots. So sometimes guys have much more luck than others.
While Cassidy has some numbers to back up his argument, this humble hockey writer believes it’s way too early to write off the 21-year-old Pastrnak as a player that’s not built for success in the shootout. He’s not just a one-timer shot from the face-off circle, and Pastrnak potentially has the speed, hands and creativity to be a dangerous, effective one-on-one player in the shootout. When David Krejci is healthy he might be a much easier choice as a third for the shootout (14-for-48 with a 29.2 percent success rate), and Cassidy has some other young player choices with potential shootout skill like Anders Bjork and Jake DeBrusk.
The bottom line, however, is that Cassidy and the Bruins had much better options for the shootout than a career AHL guy in Agostino, and it was a little much to expect a goal from a guy that barely played five minutes in a 65-minute overtime game. That’s backed up by the fact that Agostino was shipped down to the American League less than 24 hours later after failing to come through in Columbus, and the whole losing the game thing as well.
Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while blown away at the amount of money that Black Panther is going to make this weekend.
*An ugly incident in Chicago where Blackhawks fans were chanting racist garbage at Devante Smith-Pelly as he served out a penalty during the Caps visit to Chicago. Hockey fans are better than this. Everybody should be better than this. Here’s the statement from the NHL released on Sunday morning, and I sure hope those four fans ejected are never allowed into the United Center again after embarrassing their NHL team, and their city:
"Last night in Chicago, individuals directed racial taunts and abuse at Washington Capitals player Devante Smith-Pelly," said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. "The National Hockey League condemns this unacceptable and reprehensible behavior. The League fully supports the actions taken by the United Center and the Blackhawks to eject the offenders and would expect the same response to any similarly unacceptable behavior at any of our arenas.
"While this incident was isolated in nature, no player, coach, official or fan should ever have to endure such abuse at one of our games. The League will take steps to have our clubs remind all stakeholders that they are entitled to enjoy a positive environment - free from unacceptable, inappropriate, disruptive, inconsiderate or unruly behaviors or actions and may not engage in conduct deemed detrimental to that experience."
*The Hockey Night in Canada crew goes over the latest in rumors, including the NHL expansion into Seattle and the unclear situation still developing with Erik Karlsson in Ottawa.
*Eric Staal deserves plenty of credit for the success of the Minnesota Wild after he’s been reborn as a player since going to Minnesota a couple of years ago.
*Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray wants the prices to come down for potential deadline deals, and certainly they will to some degree ahead of the Feb. 26 trade deadline.
*The Dallas media is certainly getting worked up about Tyler Seguin, as they’re starting to call him Mike Modano 2.0 as they enter the playoff picture. My prediction: Seguin is on his best behavior this season in his first year under Ken Hitchcock, but a leopard doesn’t truly change his spots. The talent is obviously there in huge amounts if he really wants it, but let’s see what Seguin does when things truly get nasty in the playoffs.
For something completely different: As I mentioned above, it looks like Black Panther is going to break all kinds of box office records this weekend. Good stuff.
GOLD STAR: Loui Eriksson has been a massive disappointment for the Vancouver Canucks, but he found a way to get some measure of payback against a Boston team that walked away from him in free agency a couple of years ago. Eriksson scored the game’s first goal two minutes into the proceedings when he overpowered Brandon Carlo in front of the Boston net, and then he added insult to injury with a shorthanded goal late in the third period to really put a capper on the blowout. Eriksson finished with the two goals and a plus-2 rating in his 17:18 of ice time, and also found a way to collect four shots on net and three takeaways with his always active stick. Those were the ninth and tenth goals scored during the regular season with Eriksson, who has really been a big Swedish bust in Vancouver to this point.
BLACK EYE: Brandon Carlo finished with a minus-4 rating. Oof. The young Bruins shutdown D-man was clearly struggling early when he was losing battles in front of the net highlighted by Loui Eriksson’s first goal, and he had major issues getting good gap control in a stretch where the Bruins are struggling defensively. It’s really a bit of bad timing for Carlo as his play is dipping right now as he’s been mentioned as a key prospect leading up to the NHL trade deadline. On the good side, Carlo dropped the gloves with Darren Archibald after he threw a questionable hit on David Pastrnak, and continues to slowly-but-surely grow into more of a physical, defensive stopper while learning at the feet of Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid.
TURNING POINT: The Bruins actually outshot the Canucks by an 18-9 margin in the first period, and had some very good offensive chances turned away when Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak both hit the post in key spots. They had Anders Nilsson and the Canucks on the run based on controlling puck possession and getting some decent offensive chances against a goalie in Nilsson that isn’t a household name. But none of it mattered when Loui Eriksson scored just a few minutes into the first period and started a total defensive collapse that saw the Bruins surrender four goals in their worst period of the year. Through it all the Bruins continue to play hard even when a one-sided result on the scoreboard has pretty much dictated their fate.
HONORABLE MENTION: Jake DeBrusk was really good for the Bruins with his dad, Louie, working between the benches in Vancouver on the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast of the Bruins/Canucks game. DeBrusk had a shot that snapped off the post at the beginning of one of his early shifts, and then DeBrusk clobbered a few more chances at the front of the net as well among his four shots on net in 17:18 of ice time. Perhaps just as impressive DeBrusk turned over three pucks in his night’s work as he was a constant source of energy and attack for the Bruins. If DeBrusk had heard his name in trade rumors over the last couple of days, it certainly didn’t seem like that was really bothering him as he was one of Boston’s best players during the game.
BY THE NUMBERS: 10 – Tim Schaller scored a bit of a garbage time goal in the third period for the Bruins to bust up the shutout, and perhaps just as important Schaller is now a double-digit goal-scorer for the first time in his NHL career. His impressive development curve continues for the Black and Gold.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “We lost the slot battle in the first period. Not hard enough in that area. I thought we had our legs, but the commitment to defending the front of our net has come and gone lately, and it’s added up to goals scored against us.” –Bruce Cassidy to NESN on the common thread in Saturday night’s loss to the Canucks that turned out to be a massive blowout.