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.”
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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.