September 29, 2005
TORONTO (CP) - After watching seven of his more offensively gifted players miss during a pre-season shootout, Leafs coach Pat Quinn could only laugh when tough guy Tie Domi scored the goal to end it.
But Quinn knows shootouts will be no laughing matter when the regular season gets underway next week, so he has developed a strategy to tackle the new tiebreaker.
"We probably have six guys who are good in that situation," Quinn said after practice Wednesday. "You might have a hunch (about one of those players during a game) or you might have a guy that's hot that night and looks sharp.
"He would draw that assignment."
|Expect captain Mats Sundin to get plenty of opportunities on the shootout.|
(Graig Abel Photography)
Domi wasn't the kind of player Quinn had in mind before Tuesday's shootout started, but he was left with little choice when the first seven skaters failed to beat Sabres goalie Ryan Miller.
Quinn said his players were trying to deke around the quick goaltender instead of putting the puck between his legs - where Domi eventually beat him.
During the season, Toronto's coaching staff plans to prepare for shootouts by looking for weaknesses in opposing netminders.
"As much as we can, we're trying to get film and good reports on goaltenders," Quinn said, adding that they'll also be looking to identify players who have had success against certain goalies.
Shootouts are likely to make a significant difference in the standings in the new-look NHL. During the last season in 2003-04, Toronto had 10 ties - games that will now be solved with a shootout. The Minnesota Wild led the league with 20 ties.
The league chose to institute the shootout format to add excitement for fans, but Quinn says that many players are less than thrilled about having to take a penalty shot with a game on the line.
"There's some guys that don't want that scrutiny," he said. "They want to be able to be away from the limelight.
"It's a pressure spot. As we've seen through all sports, some guys perform better in those spots than others."
Each team will take three penalty shots during the shootout, with a sudden-death shootout extension if the first three skaters on each side fail to settle the matter.
The task for NHL coaches is to identify which of their players are up to the task.
Like Quinn, Montreal Canadiens coach Claude Julien says he has spent a lot of time preparing for shootouts.
"On a lot of practice days we have them shooting and we take note of who is successful and who's not," Julien said after his team's skate in Montreal on Wednesday. "We want them to be in a position to help us because to name three is one thing, but you might go to four or five or six or seven or eight.
"You want them ready to go in the best order possible."
Coaches don't have to decide on the order until the end of the game, when they submit a list of three players to the referee. Additional shooters are added afterwards, if necessary.
Quinn hadn't immediately thought to put Domi's name down Tuesday night, but he said the tough guy's willingness to take the shot helped make the decision easier.
Domi has no illusions about where he stands on the team's shootout depth chart, but says he wouldn't shy away from taking one during the regular season if called upon.
"Did you have any doubt before I did it last night?" Domi asked with a smile. "Exactly. I wouldn't be nervous at all."