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Solving the Shootout...

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs




Now in his sixth season with Leafs TV
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October 23, 2006

(TORONTO) - It shouldn't be the least bit surprising that as I sat down to write a column on the Maple Leafs shootout woes that the only game in the NHL on Sunday would be going to a shootout as well.

And luckily for the Ducks, a Ryan Getzlaf gem sent past Mathieu Garon saved them from joining Toronto as the only team in league history to lose ten games by way of a shootout.

While some fans seem willing to give the Leafs a big "10-4" for their decent start to the season, it's their 4-10 record in shootouts over the last year and a month that continues to concern the diehards, not to mention those who are trying to change their luck in these one-on-one confrontations, as well as the head coach who has never been a fan of the format.

And like Pat Quinn a year ago, Paul Maurice is already being questioned about his reluctance to dramatically alter his list of shooters.

Why?

Because his list looks a lot like that of his predecessor.
Here are the facts:

In 2005-06 the Maple Leafs scored on four of 24 shots while posting a record of three wins and seven losses using these shooters:
Mats Sundin (1 for 7)
Alexei Ponikarovsky (1 for 5)
Darcy Tucker (1 for 4)
Eric Lindros (1 for 3)
Jason Allison (0 for 3)
Jeff O'Neill (0 for 1)
Kyle Wellwood (0 for 1)

In 2006-07 the Maple Leafs have scored on four of 14 shots while posting a record of one win and three losses using these shooters:
Mats Sundin (2 for 4)
Alexei Ponikarovsky (0 for 3)
Darcy Tucker (1 for 4)
Matt Stajan (1 for 1)
Jeff O'Neill (0 for 1)
Kyle Wellwood (0 for 1)

Sundin is one of only three players to have scored twice in shootouts this year (Daniel Briere 2-3 in Buffalo, Mikko Koivu 2-2 in Minnesota)

Most people understand the logic behind using your captain repeatedly in such situations, and Maurice has admitted you will see Sundin every time. (Although in wake of Peter Forsberg invoking his right of first refusal for the Flyers on one occasion, and Chris Drury attempting only one shot in Buffalo's 13 shootout appearances, it's clear that not all coaches take the same approach.)

But it's hard to imagine that we will continue to see those same players who have followed Sundin so far this month.

Why not ride Stajan until he fails? Why not give John Pohl a chance? Even Bates Battaglia and Chad Kilger find themselves in the club's top five in shooting percentage.

Maybe it's time to use Ian White or Brendan Bell. Afterall, their background is offence. And therein lies the beauty (or difficulty for a coach) of the shootout.

You just can't predict who's going to thrive, or who's going to fail...until you give them that chance.

No one predicted last October that Jussi Jokinen (now 11 for 14) would be the shootout king. Or that his teammate, veteran defenceman Sergei Zubov would be 8 for 13. Is it any wonder the Stars are a league best 13-1?

Or that the aforementioned Koivu, he of eight goals in 72 games, would be six for eight on post-game penalty shots.

How about the Kozlovs? Slava is 6-9 with Atlanta. Viktor is 9-13 with the Devils and Islanders.

The San Jose Sharks, loaded with front line talent, have one win in eight shootouts.

The Islanders are 10-4. The Blue Jackets 8 -3. And the popular choice for the Cup this season - Anaheim - is 4-9.

It just doesn't make sense. And this is perfect for the entirely unpredictable NHL.

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