It was a marathon shootout in Philadelphia yesterday. It took 18 shooters to resolve who got the extra point between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers. The only shooter to score was the final one in Oliver Wahlstrom.
The fact that Wahlstrom went 18th in the marathon shootout was a particular point of controversy online. And for good reason. The Islanders sophomore player is a creative forward whose shootout skills have been on display since he was nine years old.
So why did it take so long to get him out there in the shootout. It was a gamble.
New York Islanders: Barry Trotz's gamble pays off
After the game, Barry Trotz spoke about the decision to not play Wahlstrom in the shootout until the ninth round. With a 0/3 shootout record this year, Barry Trotz wanted to issue a challenge to Wahlstrom:
" "He didn’t really come that close [with first 3 attempts this year]. Sometimes, you move a guy down the lineup a little bit they take a little of offense to it or the challenge, whichever you want. Today, Wahlly took it as a challenge that he had an opportunity to win a hockey game and get himself back in the mix for shootouts.""- Barry Trotz
Before Wahlstrom eventually took the ice for the shootout Isles ran through eight players. Six hadn't taken a shot in the shootout this year, two had never taken a shot in the shootout (Bellows and Dobson), and one player who had taken one shootout attempt in his career prior to last night (Pageau).
Not to mention running out Zach Parise who may be 37% efficient in the shootout over his career but he's gone 20% (2/10) in his last three seasons.
That's a risky decision from Trotz. The Islanders need all the points they can get right now. Running three players who aren't exactly known for their shootout prowess (Dobson, Pageau, and Parise) and a shootout rookie (Bellows) to hopefully get something out of Wahlstrom is, again, risky.
Of course, it worked. Wahlstrom took the challenge issued by his coach and scored the decisive goal. So Barry's gamble on running some less than obvious shootout candidates to ruffle a response out of Wahlstrom worked.
Was it that big of a gamble?
While I was writing this I kept thinking, how big of a gamble are we talking about here? Did Philly run out some hyper-effective shootout players while the Isles sent out weaker shootout players? Not really.
The four shooters the Flyers ran from rounds five through nine were:
-Scott Laughton (0/3 0%)
-Morgan Frost (0/1 0%)
-James van Riemsdyk (9/33 27%)
-Ivan Provorov (0/2 0%)
*Numbers are career shootout stats before last night's shootout.
We don't know if Barry Trotz and his staff knew how proficient these guys were from Philly. But in hindsight, it seems like the risk was well-timed. The call to freeze out Wahlstrom for a few rounds wasn't that bad.