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Senators Watch: Shootout nightmares

Watching Dany Heatley score in the shootout for the San Jose Sharks a couple of weeks ago has to stick in the craw of Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk. That, and the fact he gave Heatley $4 million to leave town last summer.

(Good luck getting that money back, Eugene. There’s no way the Sharks would have dealt for Heatley if they would have had to pay him that money. That’s part of what made Heatley so attractive to them.)

But getting back to the shootout, where was that scoring prowess when Heatley was playing for the Senators? Well, one quick explanation is that it seems once a player throws the Senators logo over his head, he somehow loses his ability to score in the shootout.

Since the shootout was introduced after the lockout, no team in the NHL has been as inept in the individual skills competition than the Senators. Going into Thursday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Senators have picked up a league-low 11 wins in 35 shootout games all-time. The closest they ever came to having a winning record in the shootout was last season when they went 4-6, but are one of only three teams – the Philadelphia Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs are the others – that have had a sub-.500 record in shootouts in each of the four seasons since it has been introduced.

Including the 0-for-3 they put up in their only shootout this season, the Senators have scored just 36 goals on 130 shots for a success rate of 27.7 percent. Only four teams have been worse since 2005-06, including the Boston Bruins. But the difference is the Bruins have 23 shootout wins because they’ve received far better goaltending at the other end of the ice. In goal, Ottawa’s goalies have allowed 47 goals on 124 shots. Only six teams have received worse shootout goaltending.

Prior to signing with the Senators in 2008, Jarkko Ruutu had a respectable six goals in 12 career attempts, including two shootout-winners against the Senators, but went just 2-for-7 last season with (surprise, surprise) no game-winners. And only three active Senators – Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Mike Fisher – have scored shootout game-winners.

Last season, the Senators left six points on the table in shootouts. Had they found a way to win those games they would have only been four points short of a playoff berth.

This article also appeared in the Ottawa Metro newspaper.

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