Last night’s shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks brings the Canucks record to 0-2 in shootouts this year, which begs the question: do the Canucks miss Kyle Wellwood? Now, I’m not suggesting that replacing Wellwood with Malhotra this year on the third line was a poor decision, but they sure do miss his shootout prowess. Remarkably, Canucks shooters haven’t been the main problem, that distinction goes to Roberto Luongo and his .000 SV% in shootouts this year. Luongo has a decent save percentage all-time, so he should get over his early season shootout troubles.
Despite having fairly good teams since the inception of the shootout, the Canucks have a very poor shootout record. They’re now 22-30 in shootouts, and 20-24 with Roberto Luongo in net. So what accounts for this poor record? Lets investigate.
Roberto Luongo is mostly to blame early this season, allowing five shootout goals in five attempts. Hard to win when your goalie doesn’t make a save. But long term, he can hardly be blamed, can he? Perhaps he can. Does he prepare well enough for teams? Does he know their tendencies and whatnot? I find that Luongo often falls for fakes, making him vulnerable to dekes (although this was not the case on Jonathan Toews’ attempt on Wednesday).
Vancouver’s shooters haven’t been very good historically, with the exception of Pavol Demitra and Kyle Wellwood. Those two were the bread and butter shooters for the Canucks for the past two seasons and need to be replaced. I’m not a proponent of using whoever is playing well or going on a hunch or going with your star players if they don’t have a great shootout record (remember Markus Naslund in shootouts?). The art of the shootout is almost completely separate from a regulation game.
Case in point, Hart Trophy winner Henrik Sedin had perhaps the worst shootout attempt I have ever seen and hasn’t shot since:
The teams that are most successful use the same shooters that have 2-3 go-to moves each. That’s why I found it curious that the Canucks chose not to use Jeff Tambellini in their last game. Tambellini has by far the best career shooting percentage, 66.7%. The next closest is Ryan Kesler at 33.3%. As it turned out against Chicago, Kesler (33.3%) and Daniel Sedin (23.5%) scored, while Mikael Samuelsson (14.3%) did not.
The Best Strategy
I don’t believe that most teams take the shootout seriously enough yet. Having a strong shootout team can make or break your season, just ask the Philadelphia Flyers last season. The shootout is serious business and should be treated as such. I believe that not only should teams practice the shootout, but there should be a group of about 5-6 players and a coach that study them. Teams have power play and penalty kill meetings and coaches that breakdown other teams’ tendencies on special teams, so why not for shootouts?
The Canucks ought to have a meeting before every game with one of their coaches going over the opposing goaltender’s shootout weaknesses/tendencies with their top shootout players, lets say Kesler, Tambellini, Raymond, Samuelsson and Daniel Sedin. At the same time, the starting goalie should view video of the opposing team’s top 3-4 shooters with goaltender goach Rolie Melanson, to gain an advantage