Blackhawks

The Art of the Shootout: NHL's newfound skill

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The Art of the Shootout: NHL's newfound skill

Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011
10:20 PM

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.

Places, everyone

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.

Lets talk

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.

Do the Blackhawks have room to sign John Tavares?

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USA TODAY

Do the Blackhawks have room to sign John Tavares?

The NHL Draft is over. Farm systems have been restocked and now the focus has shifted to free agency, where the fun is just beginning.

The biggest fish on the market is John Tavares, a franchise-changing center in the heart of his prime. For a little bit, it seemed like the loyal New York Islanders captain was ready to move on after they took another step back by missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

But then Lou Lamiorello became available and was snatched up by Long Island. His first order of business was relieving GM Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight of their duties, the first real sign that significant changes were coming. The next was securing Barry Trotz as head coach after he couldn't agree to terms on an extension with the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.

For the first time in a while, there appears to be structure in the front office and coaching staff.

Yet, Tavares has remained committed to visiting with reportedly five teams in Los Angeles during the free agent negotiating window that opened Sunday. And he's absolutely earned that right. San Jose and Toronto are believed to be two of the teams. The rest is unclear.

When asked by NBC Sports Chicago's Pat Boyle at the end of the draft on Saturday, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman wouldn't confirm nor deny that they were one of the teams scheduled to meet with Tavares.

"I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise, right?" Bowman said with a smile.

Whether or not they are, could the Blackhawks realistically even make it work?

They actually have the cap space to do it. Or at least they can make room without shuffling too many cards.

As of Sunday, the Blackhawks have $9.225 million in open cap space to fill out six roster spots. If you can find a trade partner for Marian Hossa's contract, that creates an extra $5.275 million, which brings the total up to $14.5 million. That's without subtracting any real bodies from the roster. 

Tavares is likely to command in the $10 million range for average annual value over the next seven years, and the latter part is key. While it would certainly be challenging to have three players eating up at least $10 million each in cap space — with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews at $10.5 million — they could make it work in the short term.

But signing Tavares to a seven-year deal would probably get in the way of the Blackhawks' longer-term goals, which includes re-signing Alex DeBrincat and Nick Schmaltz when their entry-level deals expire and even Vinnie Hinostroza when his new two-year contract ends.

Are the Blackhawks willing to risk that?

For Tavares, maybe. But Toews is 30, Kane is 29 and Tavares will be 28 by the time this upcoming season starts. At some point, an infusion of youth would be required to remain competitive for the long term.

Stan Bowman plays coy when asked about pitching free agent John Tavares

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USA TODAY

Stan Bowman plays coy when asked about pitching free agent John Tavares

The unrestricted free agent market opens up for the NHL on July 1. Five-time All-Star John Tavares is will reportedly be meeting with five different teams to talk about the possibility of leaving the only team he's played for his entire career, the New York Islanders. 

After a highly disappointing 33-39-10 finish to the 2017-18 season, many expect Chicago general manager Stan Bowman to be very aggressive this offseason. When asked by NBC Sports Chicago's Pat Boyle if the Blackhawks would be one of the five teams going after Tavares, Bowman gave a very reticent answer.

"I woudn't want to spoil the surprise, right?" Bowman said with a smile. 

"No, I'm not going to comment on that, but I know we're gonna have a lot of discussions over the next five or six days and we'll see where it goes."

Reports indicate that the Islanders and Tavares had been trying to work out the terms of a long-term extension, but with so many attractive options out there, it will be a tough decision for him. There are several teams coming off of playoff runs expected to go after Tavares, including Tampa Bay, Las Vegas and San Jose. In addition to those teams, his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs are expected to be in play as well.

But Chicago's rough year was so out of place for a team so used to winning consistently, that one can imagine their pitch will be enticing.

Elliotte Friedman of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada had this to say about the Blackhawks potential pursuit of Tavares: "They're not going to tolerate being that bad again, they're going to try something. I think they'll make a run at John Tavares too. I do, I think they'll ask, is there any way we can get him here?"

When taking all of this into account, it is sure to be an extremely exciting free agency period for the Blackhawks. The team is in full "re-tool" rather than "rebuild" mode, and there have been discussions that Kane may be becoming the more vocal leader of the team. But the addition of Tavares to a core of Kane, Jonathan Toews and Corey Crawford could boost the Blackhawks back into Stanley Cup contention.