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Practice and Perspective: Garland, Tocchet Talk Shootout Success

But calmness could be biggest key

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes

Conor Garland says the basic approach to shootout strategy is mostly mental: staying calm.

It's the secret, he says, to success -- which the Coyotes enjoyed Monday night in St. Louis, in their first shootout win of the season.

Garland and Christian Dvorak - two mainstays in the shootout rotation -- scored on the Blues' Jordan Binnington. Darcy Kuemper stymied two of the St. Louis' three attempts.

Garland noted that achieving calm on the road is a bit easier this year because of the limited amount of fans in the stands.

"Last year, we had (shootouts) in the United Center (Chicago), Washington, St. Louis, and Vegas," Garland said. "Those are some tough places to go in. It's loud, all eyes are on you. So, a lot of it is just being calm. I think we have some pretty good personalities to be able to go in the shootout. I think D-vo has closed out a few for us, Schmaltzy, guys that are pretty calm in those situations. It's nice."

Garland, Nick Schmaltz and Dvorak have scored shootout goals this year. Dvorak scored the game-deciding goal Monday night.

The Coyotes also went to a shootout in the season opener January 14 against San Jose. In that game, Schmaltz was the lone shootout scorer.

Garland leads the Coyotes with six shootout goals since the 2018-19 season. He is 6-for-12 all-time.

Garland, Schmaltz and Dvorak accounted for 10 of the Coyotes' 11 shootout goals in 2019-20. Garland and Schmaltz went 4-for-9; Dvorak was 2-for-3.  

The trio often practice their moves at the end of practice, as they did Thursday, taking turns on Antti Raanta.  

"Gars and Schmaltzy and D-vo, those guys really enjoy the shootouts after practice," head coach Rick Tocchet said. "They throw things on the line, which I like, a little competition. Obviously, Raants doesn't want them to score. It's funny because they like to chirp. Raants will stop like seven in a row, then all of a sudden they chirp, and then they score three out of four."

Tocchet likes to see their creativity pay off, even if it is just practice.

"That's the sort of convincing you want," he said. "I know Gars and those guys spend time talking about, 'Hey, let's try this move in this situation,' or, 'What's your go-to move?'"

Garland says the three lean on each other for advice and feedback.

"We all talk about this stuff," Garland said. "When we see a move, you discuss it. You probably don't copy it, but you see something."

Garland resurrected a move he hadn't used in a while to score Monday night. He transitioned left-to-right to his forehand, to tuck a shot inside the right post.

"You have a couple (moves) in your bag," he said. "And when you need them, you go to them."

Garland said three factors he considers when deciding his move are: the condition of the ice, the goalie, and anything he has seen on film.

"You probably have about five or six moves you go to," he said. "We've got a pretty deep group of guys that can go in the shootout. If I'm called, you better score, because there's some other guys coming that can do the job."

Shootouts are more critical this year because of the condensed schedule which consists exclusively of division matchups. Each point is more crucial.

"Shootouts are huge this year," Tocchet said. "I mean, that extra point can be the difference of making (the playoffs) or not.

Garland was successful in St. Louis, but said he hasn't been having as much luck lately in practice. Thursday afternoon, he found the back of the net, and had a game-like celebration to boot.

Garland swooped in with speed from wide left (almost touching the half-wall), before slowing his approach toward the left hash-mark, to shoot -- and score -- five hole. 

"That was my move in junior," Garland said. "I hadn't used it in a while. So, I was thinking to myself, 'I might need to go to old faithful here and see how it works,' because nothing else was going in. Luckily it worked out, but we'll see." 

Garland says he's got plenty more tricks in his shootout repertoire. But he is just as happy if he doesn't have to use them.

"Hopefully, I don't have to use them," he said. "I like winning in regulation, no need for the shootout."

Lead Photo Credit: Scott Rovak - NHLI via Getty Images // Second Photo Credit: Chase Agnello-Dean - NHLI via Getty Images // Footer Photo Credit: Patrick McDermott - NHLI via Getty Images

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