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Notebook: Williams enjoys shootout role

by Michelle Crechiolo / Detroit Red Wings
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DETROIT – With snipers like Pavel Datysuk and Henrik Zetterberg, it’s almost taken for granted that the Red Wings would own most shootout situations. Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case this season.

Datsyuk ranks as the team’s best shootout performer, finding the back of the net on 6-of-10 attempts. He is tied with five others, including Sidney Crosby, for first in the NHL. The percentages decline drastically after that, with Zetterberg scoring only 2-of-10 shots for a dismal 20 percent success rate. Both Jason Williams and Todd Bertuzzi are 2-of-5, scoring on 40 percent of their attempts.

The Wings rank No. 21 in the NHL in shootouts with a 4-7 record, scoring on only 14-of -42 attempts. In the 2008-09 campaign, they performed slightly better and got more wins, with 13 goals on 33 shots for a 6-4 mark.

It’s a situation that the Wings know they need a lot of improvement in, especially with their ongoing battle for a Western Conference playoff spot. Winning shootouts means adding an additional point in the standings, which the Wings desperately need.

The importance of the shootout is not something that Wings coach Mike Babcock has overlooked, though it isn’t necessarily his favorite situation.

“I think it’s an exciting thing for the fans,” Babcock said. “The ones I hate the worst is if you happen to lose one at home, because your fans leave thinking you lost the game. To me, it’s something after the fact, and yet you and I both know how big these points are. They become very important, and the selecting of the players in order to do it right leaves you a chance to second-guess yourself.”

For his first three shooters, Datysuk and Zetterberg are Babcock’s staples, participating in every shootout they are in the lineup for. Williams and Bertuzzi are usually the third choices, and if the first round doesn’t decide the game, the other participants are decided on “their record, but I also decide on who I think is playing well, and key moments,” Babcock said.

Babcock felt that Zetterberg was the “perfect guy” to be going third in the 4-3 shootout loss in St. Louis on Tuesday, but was realistic about the outcome.

“I thought he’d deliver, and you know, sometimes it just doesn’t happen. That’s just the way life is,” he said. “So you make what you think is your best educated decision, and you don’t win, you did it wrong. Simple.”

Although he admits feeling slightly nerve-wracked, Williams enjoys shooting after Datysuk and Zetterberg, pointing out that he can learn from their successes or failures.

“I think you’re kind of at your best when you don’t really have too much pressure on you,” Williams said. “I kind of like it when Pav or if Hank went first, just so I can kind of see what the goaltender likes, if he likes to come out and challenge, or if he stays deep in his net.”

Williams likes being one of Babcock’s go-to guys in a shootout situation, hoping to contribute to his team’s success by scoring a big goal.

“When you’re battling for a playoff spot like we are,” he said, “every point is crucial, and it kind of sucks to decide a game on a shootout, but I think it just adds excitement for the fans. I just happen to be one of those guys that is called upon most of the time, and I enjoy it.”
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