Too Predictable in the Shootout

This is the second part of my shootout posts. The first was how I felt when they first brought the shootout in, and I can say I still don’t fully agree with it. I’ve come to terms with it, but I know the points we’ve lost because of the shootout have been much more than the ones we’ve gained and I still don’t like it.

The other day at open practice the Canucks did a shootout at the end, something they do for the fans and to have a little fun. They were having so much fun even Shane O’Brien managed to get a goal. But the problem is they don’t play the shootout the same way in practice as they do in the game and I think if they did, it’d be the key to a few of those extra points. While the Canucks got their shootout stats for this season off to a good start, I wasn’t impressed with how it was done. Sure Wellwood did that move which earned him the nickname “Magic Mittens”, and sure Kesler had a total snipe which was a little unexpected when you expect him to do the leg kick, but it’s all old news at this point. They won the shootout, but I wasn’t impressed with the way they won it.

In the shootout the odds of scoring are in my mind pretty close to 50-50. When you listen to the pre-shootout talk the commentators go on about in the few minutes between overtime and the shootout, you hear them talk about what they expect the player to do, how the opposing goalies know what certain players moves are, and every time you hear them talk about Canucks shooters they’re so predictable. Burrows the forehand backhand, Kesler the leg kick, Wellwood the last minute forehand-backhand-forehand tuck around the goalie, Linden would always skate in fast and get the goalie backing up too fast before he took the wrist shot – the list goes on.

If goalies have it all figured out before it happens, the players have to try something different or they’re already at a disadvantage. We’ve lost our fair share of shootouts since their inception post-lockout and it’s in my eyes largely due to a lack of creativity. They can’t expect a different result when doing the same thing over and over again. Yes they walked away with the victory in the shootout against Dallas, and that’s primarily why I’m writing this now so that it doesn’t seem like a bitter response to a loss. The shootout is going to produce a winner. The Canucks have nothing to lose by trying those fancy moves and dekes. Even if they screw up, they’re about as likely to score as they are if they go with the straight shot that ends up hitting the opposing goaltender’s logo.

The perfect example is Edler’s shootout goal in the pre-season. It was completely unexpected, the goalie had no idea what was happening (and for that matter neither did Edler) but it worked. Raymond proved it that very same shootout by pulling a spin-o-rama. This isn’t going to be the last shootout the Canucks face this season, and when you’re facing young danglers like the Oilers, or the Red Wings who pull everything but rabbits out of their shootout bag of tricks you can’t win with an stock arsenal of moves. If the shootout is really going to be entertaining, and the Canucks want to give them self a shot at winning every time they’re tied after 65 minutes, they have to take that risk and pull a move. I’m not looking forward to the shootouts we lose this year, but I hope they aren’t lost because the players put themselves behind the eightball by giving the goaltender the upper hand by being predictable.

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