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#DUFFALO: WHO ARE YOUR 'GO-TO' SHOOTOUT CHOICES?

by Brian Duff / Buffalo Sabres

ON ICE


Third best all-time.

Only the New York Islanders (68) and the Pittsburgh Penguins (67) have more shootout wins than the Buffalo Sabres’ 66. Yet the struggle has been so real this season.

Nineteen shot attempts. Two goals. One win. Five shootout losses. And it’s five straight losses since the October 21st win against Toronto. And it’s not as if they don’t practice it.

But there have been long stretches between games requiring a shootout this year, so perhaps it was easily pushed to the back burner.

From Game 26 to Game 51, only once did Buffalo go past 3-on-3 overtime, and that was the home shootout loss to Chicago. But three of the past seven games have gone beyond regulation with two of those resulting in shootout losses.

So prior to Tuesday’s game, I had begun canvassing the players in the room for their opinions on which three of their peers they would like to see in the shootout if the decision was up to them.

I managed to get about three-quarters of the room to weigh in and here are the results:

PLAYER % OF PLAYERS WHO VOTED FOR HIM CAREER SHOOTOUT STATS 2015-16 SHOOTOUT STATS
Ryan O'Reilly 64% 10/28 0/5
Tyler Ennis 57% 15/42 1/3
Jack Eichel 36% 0/3 0/3
Marcus Foligno 36% 0/3 0/0
Matt Moulson 29% 16/40 1/3
Sam Reinhart 21% 0/0 0/0
Zemgus Girgensons 14% 3/13 0/1
Mike Weber 14% 0/0 0/0
Nicolas Deslauriers 14% 0/0 0/0
Zach Bogosian 7% 1/1 0/0
Johan Larsson 7% 0/0 0/0

 
It’s a small sample, and I did leave the option open for the player to vote for themselves, which I think is something you want - that is, players to believe in their own abilities. And four of the players did in fact vote for themselves.

Each game – and what has happened in it – often seems to affect some of the decision making that goes into selecting the shooters.

But what ultimately makes the decision a lot easier for the coaches is just a small measure of success: A couple of wins in a row; Players feeling comfortable as the first shooter or the final shooter; Whatever the case may be.

No team has done it better than the Florida Panthers this season, with players like Brandon Pirri and Aleksander Barkov combining to go 9/10 and helping Florida to a 6-1 record.

So who would you pick as your three “go-to” Sabres?

Based on watching a lot of practices over the years, and just a gut feel for certain players calmness under pressure, I would go with Sam Reinhart first, Johan Larsson second, and Mike Weber third.

Larsson by the way, went 6/14 in his AHL career during time with Houston and Rochester. And he was never more clutch than in this moment at 10:42 of this video:

And Weber has been working magic for years in practices, so it would only be fitting that someday he gets his moment in front of a much bigger audience.

By the way, if you’re wondering who led the Sabres to all that shootout success over the past decade, the easy answer would be to start with Ryan Miller, who still leads all netminders in shootout wins with 55.

But the best shooters in Sabres history?

Most Goals: Thomas Vanek with 20.

Best Shootout Percentage : Toni Lydman (1/1, 100%), Brian Flynn (3/5, 60%), Ales Kotalik (18/36, 50%).

Most Game-Deciding Goals: Kotalik with 10, followed by Vanek and Ennis with 6 each.


OFF ICE
The parents trip Beyond Blue and Gold hit the web and our MSG telecasts this week.

And the ending, albeit it disappointing from a team standpoint, is captured perfectly by our crew. Check it out here:

Coming soon: Oh Reilly! A two-part episode on Ryan O'Reilly, which will debut in the not-too-distant future.


LIFE ON THE ROAD
It’s a Thursday night in Philadelphia and we are high atop the ice surface in the far end of the press box as the Sabres and Flyers battle below.

Out of the blue I receive an email from an old college instructor of mine. Betty Rice taught us the ins and outs of television news during my second and final year of the Broadcasting Program at Mount Royal College in Calgary in 1992.

It has been years since we’ve been in contact, and this time was completely different.

She said she had been going through some old boxes and happened upon a thank you letter I had written to her.

Pretty amazing journey these past 24 years. Thank you again, Betty!


IN THE COMMUNITY
One of my favorite team events of the season is coming up. I only wish I could take part like these guys are!

Bald for Bucks happens this Saturday, February 20th.

Current Sabres - Mike Weber, Mark Pysyk, and Robin Lehner along with Sabres Alum Marty Biron will be shaving their heads to raise money towards Roswell Park Cancer Institute in the First Niagara Center Pavillion after practice.

Fellow Sabres Brian Gionta, Jack Eichel, Chad Johnson and Zach Bogosian and pediatric cancer patients will be wielding the clippers.

To donate please go to www.sabres.com/baldforbucks.

Anyone who donates $25 or more will receive an exclusive Sabres Bald For Bucks T-shirt!


#DUFFALO THREE STARS

For the period ending February 17

1. Mulberry Italian Ristorante - The Mulberry experience is simply amazing. Since moving to Western New York, it is still the all-time leader for me in most-recommended restaurant. One visit and you’ll know why.

2.Pasquale's - We recently hit the East Aurora location and were reminded again of just the warmth, quality and service that comes with a good family restaurant.

3. J.P. Fitzgerald's - This is becoming habit. And that’s because there’s always something to be said for just feeling like you are at home, even when you are not.

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