Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011
By Tracey MyersCSNChicago.com
Jonathan Toews drove in toward Ottawa goaltender Brian Elliott, wristing what would be the game-winning shootout effort between Elliotts legs.
For Toews, theres not an overwhelming thought process about the shootout. Hes always been good at it, always confident on it, so he just goes in and shoots.
You just block everything out for a couple of seconds and make something happen, said Toews, who is now 17-of-30 on shootout opportunities (56.7 percent) with six game-deciding goals. Its not so much preparation as sometimes you just go with confidence.
Toews has been a strong at the shootout his entire career, dating back to the the 2007 World Junior Championship semifinal when he scored on all three of his attempts in Canadas 2-1 victory over the U.S. In the NHL, several players have emerged as true shootout artists, be it how they score or how often they do it. So what makes a good shootout star?
What to do
Every good shootout man goes in with some type of plan, whether its to just skate and fire quick, slow it down, deke, backhand, whatever.
Some have made it their calling card, like the Carolina Hurricanes Jussi Jokinen, who has the most goals (28) and the most shots (57) since the shootout was introduced after the lockout. Some have had memorable shots, such as Edmonton youngster Linus Omark, who did a 360 at center ice before scoring on Tampa Bay earlier this season.
Players dont want to talk about their moves too much, although in this day of YouTube and all other video replay options, there arent many secrets out there. Still, the best usually stick with what works on a regular basis and keep it simple regardless.
I dont have 1,000 moves, said Dallas Stars forward Brad Richards, who has converted 42.9 percent (24-of-56) of his career shootout attempts. If youre hot, youre doing something, you stay with it. If it doesnt work you change it up. Everybodys watching video now, so if the goalies expecting you to come in fast and you dont in that game, it might give you the slightest little advantage. You try to mix it up, but for the most part, my philosophy is the same.
Joe Pavelski echoed Toews comments about confidence being a huge factor.
Id like to say you know what youre doing; sometimes you do, sometimes you dont, said Pavelski, whos made 18-of-35 (51.4 percent) of his shootouts. You just have to have confidence on your way down and get a good shot off. I just like shooting. Sometimes I mix in something here and there, but its simple moves and throw it on net.
Whos first, second and third? Sometimes coaches have a set lineup based on the players shootout success rate. Other times, they may swap out a struggling shooter for a player having a strong game. But with the best shooters, theyre usually No. 1 or 2 every time.
Toews has been successful as the Blackhawks No. 1 shootout guy. For others, however, going second is better. Richards used to be the first one up but said hes found more success this season as the No. 2 shooter. While the first guy is up, Richards is watching.
I just stare at the goalie, said Richards. I see what he did, how far he came out. Sometimes you see where they poke-check more, they go down quicker, stuff like that. When youre not shooting, you can see that. I like scouting that way.
Patrick Kane said hes tried to get a quick study on the goaltender during Toews turn but doesnt get much time to do so.
Youd like to get a read on the goalie and he just fires it in the net every time. You dont get a read. It just seems he doesnt miss anymore, said Kane, whos shooting a not-too-shabby 43.2 percent (16-of-37) himself. The shot hes developed is pretty tricky. For me, I just try to do my own thing.
Still, Toews is willing to share.
I want to tell them to try the same move but nobody wants to try it, Toews said with a laugh. Nobodys taking my advice.
Theres nothing like a little communication to improve shootout success. Toews said coach Joel Quenneville usually offers to give Blackhawks shooters tips on the opposing goaltender. Sometimes the Hawks take the advice and sometimes they just go with their guts, as Toews did on Friday night.
I see so many things, Ill let the guys know if they want to know, Quenneville said. Or theyll go with their instincts if they have something there.
Other shooters just ask their teammates. St. Louis Brad Boyes used to follow T.J. Oshie before Oshie got hurt earlier this season. Boyes, whos made good on the shootout 45.1 percent of the times (23-of-51), would always ask Oshie his thoughts.
We do some similar things so when hed go Id chat with him and ask what he sees, what he does, Boyes said. Thats why its good to have someone like him whos similar in moves, so I get a sense of what the guys going to do.
Everyone has their opinion on the shootout. Traditionalists arent the biggest fans, but many other fans are pretty warm to it. Love it or hate it, its nevertheless entertaining. What do players think of it? Well, sometimes, it just depends on how theyre shooting.
When we win it, its great, Boyes said. When we lose its not very fun.
Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.