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91 days of Stamkos: Day 7, A tale of two penalty shots

What a difference a week made.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Boston Bruins

Penalty shots are a weird part of hockey. Some people call it the most exciting play in hockey (those people are wrong, a breakaway is way more exciting). However, if you ask most Lightning fans, they would rather see the team get a power play than a penalty shot.

By theory, penalty shots should lend a tremendous advantage to the team taking the shot. After all, they are only awarded to “restore a scoring opportunity which was lost as a result of a foul being committed by the offending team, based on the parameters set out in these rules.”

That’s literally the definition from the NHL rulebook (rule 24.1). Yet, does it really give the aggrieved team an advantage? Last season teams combined to be successful on 16 of 58 attempts, which is a 27.6% success rate. Now, this rate is actually greater than teams’ power play success rate of 18.7%, but that’s not the argument here.

If I’m a defender who just got torched by Steven Stamkos and I have the option of him attacking my goaltender 2-on-1 with Marty St. Louis or having to try and beat him on a penalty shot, I’m going to commit the foul and hope the odds are in my favor.

Stamkos, as good as he is at all other ways in scoring goals, is about average in penalty shots. He’s had six in his career (fourth most in the league since 2008-09), and has converted on two of them. That’s better than Alex Ovechkin, who is 1 for 9, but worse than Brad Marchand, who is 4 for 5.

In 2010-11, the year he scored 45 goals, Stamkos had two penalty shots. The Lightning as a team had 7 total with Sean Bergenheim failing on both of his attempts, and Vinny Lecavalier going one for three. For Stamkos, his two attempts could not have been any different.

First up a beautiful spin:

Following a nifty feed from Marty St. Louis, Stamkos found himself alone in front of the net. Old friend Roman Hamrlik gave him a little tug, and the ref’s arm went up. Stamkos calmly skated down the ice and pulled the spin-o-rama move on Carey Price.

Cutting in front of the net on his forehand he got Price to commit, and once that happened, Stamkos spun to his backhand and flipped it into the top of the net. It was very nicely done, and it elicited a wry chuckle from Bobby Taylor.

When executed correctly, it is pretty much an unstoppable move, which is probably why it was banned by the NHL heading into the 2014-15 season. Rule 24.2 explicitly states: “The spin-o-rama type move where the player completes a 360 [degree] turn as he approaches the goal shall not be permitted.”

And I thought the NFL was the no-fun league!

Just a week after making all of the highlight reels with that goal against Carey Price, Stamkos had another chance on the penalty shot. He made the highlight reels again, for a different kind of spin-o-rama

(Apologies for only finding the Pittsburgh broadcast.)

Kudos to Marc-Andre Fleury for coming way out of the net, which might have distracted Stamkos for a moment, forcing him to change his mind. When asked about what happened, Stamkos mentioned that his skates were probably dulled from hitting the boards earlier in the game. All it took was a moment of inattention and he ended up on his kiester.

Stamkos helplessly sliding down the ice as the puck trickled harmlessly wasn’t even the most embarrassing thing to happen in that game. Even if he had stayed on his skates and converted the penalty shot, the Lightning would have still been trailing 5-1. In the end they lost 8-1 (Adam Hall had the lone tally in the drubbing).

It was so bad that coach Boucher had to pull starting goaltender Dwayne Roloson in the first AND third periods. Backup Dan Ellis wasn’t terrible, but Boucher felt it would be cruel to have just one goaltender face the onslaught all by themself.

So even for the best-scoring forwards in the NHL, the penalty shot itself can be a crapshoot, and that’s if they remain on their feet. Goalies have gotten so good at one-on-one challenges that a penalty shot doesn’t seem to have that much of an advantage.

Since the success rate of penalty shots is only about 3 in 10, should teams have the option of just taking a power play but make it a major two minute penalty (for lack of a better term)? Even if the team with the extra man scores, they still have the advantage for the entire two minutes. That would keep players from ripping down players on a breakaway, or throwing gloves at them.

Either way, it’s nice to know that even Steven Stamkos can screw something up on the ice.