In Their Heads

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By Anthony Pucik

On Friday Oct. 24, the New Jersey Devils lost to the Dallas Stars in a shootout at home. It was the Devils’ 18th straight shootout loss.

The Devils were 0-13 last season in the shootout and haven’t won since March 10, 2013 versus the Winnipeg Jets. This is starting to worry New Jersey and their fans.

This is no longer a matter of a few players struggling. Last season, the Devils’ shooters were 4-45 in the shootout, which was the worst percentage (8.9 percent) in the league. New Jersey in general had a rough time scoring last year, so it was understandable that they did not have the greatest record in shootouts, but to not win even one out of 13 is a problem.

Early on this year, the Devils have found the back of the net more often, which in theory should give them a better chance of winning in the shootout because their scoring improved. However, newly acquired forward Mike Cammalleri, who has been great for New Jersey thus far this season, was also unable to score in the shootout against Dallas.

The blame can’t be placed on New Jersey’s goaltenders either. Former goalie Martin Brodeur and current net minder Cory Schneider are two solid goaltenders who did fairly well in shootouts, but eventually got bested by opposing players’ great moves because the Devils were simply unable to put the puck in the net.

The talent is there, but the Devils aren’t winning. So if the shooters aren’t the problem and the goalies aren’t the problem, what is?

It isn’t a lack of talent. It’s a lack of confidence. Whether the Devils want to admit it or not, their 18 straight losses in the shootout are in the back of their mind whenever overtime ends.

Take their latest loss to the Stars, for example. When Jaromir Jagr and Cammalleri took their shots for New Jersey, they looked as if they needed to take the perfect shot otherwise they wouldn’t score, as opposed to trying to make Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen get out of position and give themselves an open net to shoot on. They rushed and as a result, they both missed their chance to score.

On the other side, Cory Schneider was beat by two nice moves, but probably could’ve stopped Jamie Benn’s if he wasn’t so quick to make a move in order to “save” the Devils from dropping to 0-18 in the shootout.

Apparently, the Devils preseason shootout victory wasn’t enough. They need a regular season shootout win within their next two or three opportunities, because if they drop points like they did last season it could cost them a playoff spot again.

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Anthony Pucik is the Assistant Sports Editor for The Fordham Ram.