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Shoot to Thrill

by Staff Writer / Philadelphia Flyers
(Voorhees, NJ, February 9) – Whether you are a proponent of the shootout or think it is just a gimmicky way to end hockey games, the fact of the matter is that the points earned in the shootout are valuable in the standings.

Just ask the Flyers, who suffered their third shootout defeat in the last eight games on Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins. After a standard practice on Friday at the Virtua Health Flyers Skate Zone, the team practiced its shootout skills in a mini-tournament among team members.

The surprise winner? Defenseman Alexandre Picard. In fact, only three players converted on their chances: Picard, fellow defenseman Denis Gauthier and forward Geoff Sanderson. Of course, that could be a positive reflection on the goaltenders.

"Our record is not very good in the shootout right now, and I figured we would get a look at everyone," said John Stevens. "I'm not sure I'm really encouraged after what I saw (laughs), but maybe Picard should get some consideration."

Friday gave Stevens a chance to possibly reevaluate who to use when the games are not decided in overtime.

"You can certainly see who feels comfortable. You want to go with guys that, 1) can handle the stage, and 2) that have some offensive ability to freeze the goalie and make plays," he said. "Some guys made some good moves, they just didn't finish. Other guys scratched themselves right off the list.

"It might be time to juggle it a little bit."

Sanderson, who is 0-for-1 this season, gave his thoughts on the process, as well as what he does personally before skating in alone on the goaltender.

"Some teams don't practice them and they have great shootout records. We just have to find a way and be a little bit more creative, or whatever, in the shootouts. Or, we can try to win the game before we get to the shootout," he said.

"For me, I like to talk to our other goalie to try and get a feel for what the other goalie does on breakaways. That's probably the best resource you have. But, I do probably decide at center ice before I go."

Overall, Philadelphia is 1-5 in shootouts this season. In 26 attempts in six games, the Flyers have converted for just two scores: one by Gagne and another by Peter Forsberg.

Still, Stevens cautions against practicing the shootout too often.

"The other concern is your goalies. You have to be careful there. You tax your goalies with those quick movements side to side, and we've seen goalies in the NHL and American League get hurt in shootouts.

"I think you have to be careful where you put it in there and not put them in a situation where they are getting so many reps where they are getting fatigued and getting injured in the process. But, I do think there is some value in it."

Gagne Feeling Better

Simon Gagne, who had surgery over the summer to repair a torn labrum in his hip, mentioned after the game on Thursday that he saw Dr. William Myers recently, who proscribed some pain killers for the left wing as he continues to heal.

Gagne has felt much better the last two games, and it has shown. The lone Philadelphia All-Star had two goals and an assist against the Penguins.

"It is just pain killers for now. Something a little bit stronger than usual. Hopefully that's going to take the pain or tightness that I have the last couple of months," he said.

"The last month has been very tough and it's very tough when you can't play the way you want to play. I felt very good the last two games. I think we'll be alright for the rest of the year."

On another Gagne-related note, the Flyers' leading scorer was not surprised when his apparent hat trick on Thursday was later overruled as his third goal was awarded to Mike Knuble after the conclusion of the game.

"I knew right away. When I shot I pointed to Mike right away. I saw it when I shot the puck; it hit Mike and went in the net. I knew it was not mine.

"I just felt bad for the fans that threw their hats on the ice."
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