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Shootout Superstar

by Mike Kalinowski / Los Angeles Kings

Kings center Jarret Stoll took scoring in the clutch to a new level for the Kings last year by converting on nine of his 10 shootout attempts.  His nine shootout goals finished second in the league and his four game-deciding shootout goals tied for first in the NHL.  Stoll’s shooting percentage of 90 percent was also best in the NHL among skaters who participated in at least four shootouts last season.

For the Kings, Stoll’s nine shootout goals were the most ever scored by a Kings player in one season and his four game-deciding goals matched a team record first set by Anze Kopitar in 2009-10.   

Stoll’s already back in Los Angeles.  He’s working out and preparing for the 2011-12 season and he recently sat down with following one of those workouts to talk about shootouts and how he approaches them.

What’s going through your mind as you prepare for a shootout attempt against the goalie?

I make up my mind early on whether I’m going to deke or shoot and then I tell myself not to change my mind at the last minute.  Goaltenders can read that and react by throwing their leg out or jamming you with a poke check.  To be successful, you need to go in there, make a good move and hit your spot. 

Do you talk with teammates on the bench while waiting for your chance to shoot, and are you reading the goaltender for clues?

Yeah, I usually shot second last year so I definitely watched to see what the first guy did.  By watching, I’m able to see how much the goalie is challenging and from that I can get an idea of what might be open.  But goalies are smart and they watch a lot of video, so often it’s a chess match between the shooter and the goalie as you skate toward him.

Do you consider yourself a fan of shootouts to end games?

I think if you took a vote amongst all hockey players most would agree that it’s a tough way to end a game.  But it’s exciting when 18,000 fans are standing and watching all-stars face all-stars with the game on the line.  I know kids love it and so do fans that are new to the game.

Do you feel like shootouts have gained importance over the years?

Yeah, as a team you need to get those extra points, especially during the last two months of the season when you realize how tight the standings are.  Last year, the race for the playoffs was tight from December and January on, so when the chance is there to pick up that extra point, hopefully your goaltender and your shooters make the right reads and you get the bounces that lead to wins. 

How often does the team practice shootouts?

We do it here and there.  When we do, it’s always at the end of practice.  If you score, you keep going.  If you miss, you leave the ice and hit the showers.  It’s a fun game to play at the end of practice and it helps the goalies get their reads.  It’s also a chance to try a new move or a new shot.  It’s a chance to see if something new works and if you can master that shot.

Do you feel added pressure when you’re one-on-one against the goaltender during a shootout?

I don’t look at it that way.  I just go in, make my move, make my shot and go from there.  I just try to stay calm, confident and do my thing.  You need to welcome that challenge.  You want to be out there in those situations, just like you want to be out there on the power-play or penalty kill or taking a key face-off.  With the game on your stick and a chance to win the game…that’s a great moment. 

Kings goalie Jonathan Quick has proven to be an excellent shootout goaltender during his career.  Does that give you added confidence when the Kings are faced with a shootout?

It’s definitely a confidence booster.  You get confidence from your goaltender on out.  That’s the way it is in the game and that carries over into the shootout.  Quickie does his thing, we do our thing and it works well.

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