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Conquering shootouts

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
To score, or not to score – that is the question.

The Canucks have never been a threatening team in shootouts; Vancouver is 44-53 all-time during one-on-one battles with the game on the line.

Only twice in the last nine seasons have the Canucks finished above .500 in shootout games and it goes without saying when a playoff spot is on the line in April, every point counts.

Knowing this, Vancouver’s brass made two key off-season moves to help in the shootout department: they acquired Radim Vrbata and hired Willie Desjardins.

Vrbata is 35-for-82 lifetime in shootouts with 11 game deciding goals. Impressive numbers considering the rest of Vancouver’s roster, all 19 guys, combine for 35 career shootout goals – did I mention COMBINED?

So, spill Vrbata. What’s the secret?

“The key is to have your go-to moves, one, two,” said Vrbata. “But you also have to read off the goalie and that’s what I try to do.”

“In other words, just shoot the puck,” laughed Brad Richardson, who is 0-for-1 in his career in shootouts.

Richardson is one of 12 Canucks that has never scored a shootout goal, a group including Kevin Bieksa, Dan Hamhuis, Shawn Matthias, Henrik Sedin, Chris Tanev, Ryan Stanton and Derek Dorsett.

To familiarize themselves with the art of the shootout, the Canucks practiced it Friday during a 40-minute skate at Rogers Arena. Thirty shots were taken by a mixture of players, guys likely to get the tap with the game on the line.

Team Daniel Sedin beat team Henrik Sedin 7-5 as Zack Kassian, Alex Burows, Henrik, Nick Bonino (2), Vrbata (2), Chris Higgins (2), Alex Edler, Daniel Sedin and Richardson all scored.

There are no TJ Oshie’s on the Canucks, but Friday proved the team will be much improved in the shootout department this season. This showing did a lot to help coach Desjardins get an idea of who to go with when it matters most; he said 75 per cent of who he’ll tap to shoot will be based on how they did in practice.

“We’ve devised a bit of a plan to help us get better in that department and time will tell if it does,” said Desjardins.

That plan more than likely looks a little something like this: Vrbata shoots, Bonino shoots, someone else shoots. Based on the stats, that someone else should be either Burrows or Edler, who have six shootout goals each, although four of Edler’s goals have been game-winners to only one for Burr. Higgins (5) and Daniel Sedin (4) are the only other players with more than one shootout goal scored.

Maybe it’s time to give someone a shot at redemption, hinted Richardson.

He doesn’t recall his only career shootout shot, but knows he missed. He maybe won’t miss the second time around.

“I’d like to go again, they had me out there practicing it, so you never know,” smiled Richardson. “My move is I just try to move in and give a fake and look for the spot, I don’t make up my mind on anything until I get right there in front of the goalie.

“All I know is if you get called, you’ve got to be ready.”

Ryan Stanton knows he for sure for sure for sure doesn’t need to prepare to take aim in a shootout anytime soon.

“I haven’t even gotten a goal in 2014 yet, so I don’t really expect to get my name called, but if a shootout ever goes 14 or 15 rounds and I’m called upon, I’ve got a couple of moves I could try,” laughed Stanton, who has never taken part in an NHL shootout.

A crossbar and bad ice thwarted Stanton’s two career shootout attempts in junior and since then he’s been preparing to get the call.

“I don’t exactly think about it before I go to sleep, but I’ve got a decent move where I go to my backhand and try to go five-hole. The thing is that it doesn’t work on NHL goalies. That’s a problem.”

That is a problem, but shootouts overall hopefully won’t be this season.

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