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Dissecting the Shootout with Jussi Jokinen

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes
Jussi Jokinen isn’t exactly a secret weapon in the shootout for the Carolina Hurricanes. He’s more of just a weapon.

Michael Smith
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Jokinen is known for his shootout prowess, dating back to his rookie campaign in the National Hockey League in 2005-06, the season the shootout was introduced. Since then, he’s scored the most shootout goals of any active skater with 29. He has a 46 percent success rate, among the best conversion percentages in the league.

He also scored the Hurricanes’ lone shootout goal on Tuesday night, his first in three tries this season. He did so in dramatic fashion, pulling out his signature one-handed move he used quite a bit in his early days with Dallas.

“I know him just from his past, especially when he first started,” head coach Kirk Muller said of Jokinen. “I’ve always believed that the guy that you feel is your strongest, put him in first so you’re definitely able to use him. So, he was a no brainer for me to start it off.”

In his rookie season with the Dallas Stars, Jokinen converted 10-of-13 (76.9 percent) in the shootout, which ranked Jokinen first in the league in goals and conversion rate.

“That was my first year in the league after the lockout,” Jokinen said. “Two years before that in Finland, they had the same rule – the shootout. So, I was already familiar with it.”

In Finland, though, Jokinen wasn’t as lethal in the shootout as he wanted to be. He also sprung a number of breakaways using a similar power play breakout scheme as the Hurricanes do now. But he wasn’t scoring on those as much as he’d like.

So, he practiced.

“I started to work on my shootout moves a little bit more, the low blocker and the one-handed move,” he said. “I still spend time over the summer practicing those moves and some new ones.”

The low blocker shot Jokinen has utilized a lot as of late started off as just that – a shot. He then tweaked it a little.

“After a couple of years I changed it where I come in and stop, but still do the same move,” he said. “That’s my favorite move, but you can’t use it every time.

“Now, lots of guys in the league are trying that same move because if you can get that shot in the right spot – over the pad and under the blocker – it’s really tough to stop, if you ask any goalie.”

Success in the shootout requires more than a couple signature dekes. It’s also a matter of considering the opposing goaltender, Jokinen said.

“What I did lots in my first two years, before every shootout, I talked to whoever our backup goalie was,” he said. “It was usually Johan Hedberg. So, I’d talk with him about what I think I’m going to do and his thoughts. And that really helped me.”

It’s a strategy Jokinen hasn’t strayed away from, even seven years later. Jokinen chatted with Justin Peters before scoring his goal Tuesday night.

“I talked with Petey a little last night to see what he thought,” he said. “I said ‘I’m going to try the one-handed move.’ He said ‘Yeah, just make sure you pull it long enough with your forehand and come in with enough speed.’ That helps when you can get something from the goalie who maybe knows what the other goalie thinks. It’s a mental thing now.”

Jokinen finished just 2-of-10 last season in the shootout, what he called a “rough” finish, especially compared to his numbers in his first few years. He said he hoped Tuesday night’s shootout goal will give him confidence in the skills competition and in the game, as well. Jokinen hasn’t recorded a goal since November 20, but he leads the team in assists with 18.

With his history and statistics, Jokinen knows he will be called upon when the Canes reach the shootout. Opposing goaltenders are well aware of this, too. But that’s all a part of the fun, the chess match on the ice.

“Right now, it’s so much more of a mental battle,” he said.” Goalies know the moves, and you just have to out-think them. It’s fun. I enjoy that.”

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