Skip to main content
The Official Site of the Nashville Predators

When It Comes to Shootouts, Preds Are Prepped and Ready to Go

Nashville Coaches, Players Talk Shootouts, What Goes Into Finding Success on the Breakaway

by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Senior Communications & Content Coordinator

The final tie in Predators' history came in March of 2004, a 2-2 score in Vancouver against the Canucks.

Both teams left the ice that night with a point in the standings, a participation ribbon of sorts, with 65 minutes of hockey unable to decide a winner.

To the younger generation of fans, yes, there was a time when a hockey game could end in a tie. Only in the Stanley Cup Playoffs did two teams compete until someone scored one more goal. In the regular season, everyone went home after an unsuccessful five-minute, 4-on-4 overtime session.

Entering the 2005-06 campaign, the rules had changed, and every game - regular or postseason - was about to have a victor.

It didn't take long for the shootout to make its Nashville debut - just two games into that season, to be exact - and it was Paul Kariya who scored against his former club, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, to give the Preds their first-ever victory in the breakaway competition.

On Sunday evening in Minnesota, it was the current version of the Predators who defeated the Wild in the shootout to take the contest by a 3-2 final and gain two more critical points in the standings. Ryan Ellis and Ryan Johansen tallied for Nashville, while goaltender Juuse Saros turned aside three of Minnesota's four shooters in the session.

Video: Johansen scores SO winner to lift Predators past Wild

To the casual observer, the shootout may just appear to be an entertaining outlet to keep a hockey game from ending in one of those dreaded ties of the past. However, there's plenty of preparation that goes into something that could decide your season.

Just ask Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette, who once saw his former club gain entry into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season by winning a shootout and make a run all the way to the 2010 Stanley Cup Final.

"It's not just by a dart that I'm throwing into somebody's back saying, 'Oh, you're up,'" Laviolette laughed. "There's a method."

In fact, more preparation goes into something that may not even happen on a given night than one might think. But, better to be have the facts and not need them, than to need them and not have them, right?

"We have a lot of guys behind the scenes doing an awful lot of work, just with regard to video and approaches and history [in the shootout]," Laviolette said. [The shooting order is] already predetermined before the game starts."

On Sunday, that lineup was Kyle Turris, followed by Ellis and Filip Forsberg. Then, when things went to extras, Johansen, who is 2-for-2 this season and has shot at a 35 percent clip in his career, was the man who received the first tap.

"It's already set on the card [before the game]," Laviolette said of the shootout order. "It would have to be somebody really feeling it that has three goals in the game that might jump in the order, but even still, if that person were not to have any success in the shootout, we probably wouldn't send them. The shootout is just a different animal, and some people are really good at it, and some people just aren't good at it. We go by the history, and we go by the scouting and do our best to give ourselves the best chance to win."

That pre-scout includes plenty of work from Goaltending Coach Ben Vanderklok, who not only provides his own netminders with the tendencies of players on the other side, but also lends Nashville's own shooters insight into the goaltender they could be facing that night.

"Ben Vanderklok does a great job of scouting their goalies, and we go over our pregame prep and ideas he has and what I see," Ellis said. "He usually goes over it with all the guys, and it's a good chance to study what their tendencies are. Hopefully you can find something that works, and then try to apply it the best you can."

Ellis has converted on two of his four chances this season to help the Predators go 3-1 in the shootout, and in NHL history, he has the seventh-most goals by a defenseman with nine.

"Everyone in the room wants to go," Ellis said. "It's a chance to win the game or put your team ahead, and it's a fun aspect of the game. We want the points down the stretch here, and it becomes that much more important. For me, it's always a challenge to go."

Sometimes, a situation presents itself where shooter and goaltender are already plenty familiar with one another. It happened Sunday when Saros found himself facing former Preds forward Kevin Fiala on the other side.

"He has a lot of moves, and so I didn't have an idea of what he was going to do," Saros said of Fiala. "Even in practice, he likes to take shootouts in practice. We played together in Milwaukee, too, so I faced him a ton and he always seems to have a new move. I really didn't know what he was going to do."

The first meeting worked out in Saros's favor, and the goaltender has become more comfortable in the shootout as his NHL career has gone along, stopping eight of 10 shooters he's faced this season for two victories. The Finnish netminder says he doesn't mind the shootout, especially if he ends up on the winning side of it.

Count Turris as another who always wants to climb over the boards and take his shot. He wasn't able to convert on Sunday, but Turris is one who is relied upon by Laviolette and his staff in these situations, and it's easy to see why.

Among all-time players with at least 60 attempts in the shootout - Turris has 72 in his career - he is 14th in goal percentage, converting on 38.9 percent of his chances.

When Turris was posed with the question on Monday, his eyes lit up at the simple thought of his next chance for a duel.

"I love it," Turris said of the shootout. "There's kind of mixed opinions on shootouts, but I really enjoy it. I just I think it's an opportunity to be creative and have some fun with the game. Obviously, they're very meaningful and you take them seriously, but at the same time, you can try some creative things that goalies haven't seen before, or different looks may give you the best opportunity to score, so I have fun with it. I really enjoy shootouts."

It's understandable. Ties were silly, anyway.

View More