It’s not a secret that this Red Wings season will likely come down to the last game of the season against Dallas. NBC Sports Network flexed the game into a national broadcast, moving the start time up an hour.
In situations like this, there are plenty of road trips, games, moments, that can be looked back upon. If this or that happened differently, the Red Wings wouldn’t be in this situation.
But how about one you may not have thought of? How about a player who was expected to contribute, but only as a role player? How about Todd Bertuzzi being the difference between the Red Wings making the playoffs and missing it?
Bertuzzi pinched his nerve on Feb. 7, hasn’t played since. In that time, the Red Wings have been in four shootouts, losing three of them.
Suppose Bertuzzi played and suppose everything he did done during regulation and overtime canceled out, that overall, he was a an even player. Even then, the Red Wings would have an extra point. Bertuzzi is worth one or two points in the shootout by himself.
Of players with five or more shootout attempts in franchise history, Bertuzzi’s 39.3 percentage as a Red Wing trails only Pavel Datsyuk (46.5%).* Shooting in Bertuzzi’s place has been Henrik Zetterberg (27.1 percent career), is 1-for-4 this season, and/or Gustav Nyquist, 0-for-2.
By percentages, Bertuzzi should have scored at least one more goal than the Zetterberg/Nyquist combo. What if Bertuzzi was called off the bench instead of Nyquist last Friday in Chicago, roofing a shot to end the game? Better yet, what if he’s the third shooter instead of Zetterberg on March 10 against Columbus, he scores to keep the shootout going and Detroit wins it in extra frames?
The Red Wings would have 48 points, Columbus 46, and Detroit would have a full regulation loss it could play with.
Bertuzzi’s return is set for April 22 vs. the Coyotes, meaning he’ll miss the West Coast road trip that includes Vancouver, who already has 10 shootouts this year, but will be back in time for home games against Phoenix and Nashville, two teams in the top half of the league in number of shootouts.
This question is how strong he’ll be. If he’s not fully healthy, it leads to an interesting coaching decision.
Bertuzzi told the Free Press he’s having trouble skating fast and stopping and starting. As we all know, skating fast isn’t a dominant trait of a Bertuzzi shootout attempts. He won’t need to stop and start either.
Do you dress a guy who could have little to no impact during regulation and overtime but could win the game for you in the shootout, or do you dress the guy who could have a slightly larger impact on the game but no impact in the shootout if you get that far?
Shootouts seem to come in bunches: back-to-back games, three of the next five, etc. But the Red Wings have averaged one shootout every seven games this season. There’s six games left.
Would you risk it?
*(Datsyuk has the highest conversion rate of all active skaters in the NHL.)