The Devils' five overtime-losses are tied for the most in the NHL.
In fact, since claiming their first OT win-- 3-2 over Washington on Jan. 25-- New Jersey's lost five straight overtime contests. Their most recent OT loss, a 4-3 shootout defeat at the Eastern Conference's No. 12 seeded Buffalo Sabres, gained New Jersey its 25th point but left the Devils searching for answers.
Three of those five losses have come in a shootout. New Jersey won a league-high 12 games via the shootout a year ago.
“We’re leaving a lot of points on the table,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer told The Record's Tom Gulitti after Saturday's game. “We were the benefactor of that last year and this year we’re on the other side of it and I don’t have the answer to it. I’m not a big believer you can practice that. You just hope that it turns and we can get some guys that stick the puck in the net.”
It may be where the Devils are missing Zach Parise most. Parise scored eight shootout goals in 2011-12-- the third-most in the league. Parise ranked in the top-20 in shootout goals in 2008-09, 2009-10 and last year. He failed to climb the list in 2010-11 because he missed all but 13 games with a knee injury.
But New Jersey still has skill players -- they simply have not performed in shootouts. Ilya Kovalchuk-- who led the NHL with 11 shootout goals a year ago-- has New Jersey's only goal in 11 shootout tries (11 percent). Patrik Elias has not scored in two shootout opportunities this year.
On the other side, New Jersey's goaltending has stopped just 50 percent of all tries against.
It's simplistic to say that New Jersey's shootout struggles are an exercise in poor luck. Johan Hedberg's started in two of the Devils' three shootout losses-- Martin Brodeur's 46 shootout wins are the most of any goaltender ever.
DeBoer's tried just about everything he can, and the Devils simply haven't performed. Shootouts are a confidence thing. The Devils just need to catch a break and find a hot hand.
Pat Pickens is a New Jersey native and lifelong Devils fan. Follow him on Twitter here.