One part of the disappointment stemming from last night's shootout loss to Anaheim was the chorus of "why Bonk?" from many fans who wondered why Radek Bonk, who was just returning from injury and isn't exactly an offensive superstar, was chosen to take the fourth and fateful shootout attempt for the Predators. He ended up making a decent move and creating some space for himself, but ultimately couldn't get enough on his shot to keep Nashville in the game.
During the post-game press conference, Barry Trotz defended his decision to use Bonk based on scouting of Anaheim goalie J.S. Giguere's tendencies, and an assessment of which players could best take advantage of perceived weaknesses. The question I want to ask today is, can the stats give us a clue as to some overall trends that might be taken advantage of?
In general, shooters score about 33% of the time in the shootout. A couple years ago I looked into the details, and at the time, it appeared that there might be a lefty/righty matchup worth using. Now, the vast majority of NHL goaltenders catch with their left hand. In my analysis covering the first two post-lockout seasons, there was a pretty sizeable difference of about 8% if the shooter's handedness matched with the goalies (i.e. lefty shooters against lefty catchers). Tyler Dellow over at mc79hockey also looked at the data last summer, particularly focusing on the minority of right-catching goalies.
While today I'm only working with current season data, it doesn't appear that this is holding true this season (league-wide shootout scoring percentages through the games of March 24, 2009):
So if the lefty/righty issue doesn't offer a solution, what else is there? I sliced through this data by position (center, wing, etc.), and by which team went first vs. second, but don't see anything particularly noteworthy there. I'd guess that as teams have gained more experience with this aspect of the game, the low-hanging competitive fruit have already been picked, and it's more of a matter of execution than anything else.
As for my take on Barry Trotz's choice of shooters? I want to know why Ryan Suter and Shea Weber have yet to make any career attempts in the shootout; both have a high degree of skill, and their long reach would provide a different look compared to what Steve Sullivan and Martin Erat offer. Come on, coach... give 'em a chance!