Lightning shares secrets to shootout success

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times Center Brayden Point beats Senators goalie Craig Anderson  during the shootout in the Lightning's 4-3 win Thursday.
DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times Center Brayden Point beats Senators goalie Craig Anderson during the shootout in the Lightning's 4-3 win Thursday.
Published Dec. 22, 2017

BRANDON — Brayden Point is almost money when it comes to scoring in the shootout, so might as well start with him.

What's the trick to scoring on a one-on-one, skater-versus-goalie showdown?

"I don't know if there is," Point said after Friday's Lightning practice. "Guys have moves they are comfortable with, go-to moves that work on goalies. But goalie to goalie, that changes. For myself, I like to have speed coming in. Some guys like to be slow."

Point's rush to the net led to his shootout goal Thursday that proved to be the winner in the Lightning's 4-3 victory against the Senators. It was his sixth shootout goal in 10 attempts since the start of last season.

It makes sense that coach Jon Cooper would bat Point leadoff when he chooses his first three skaters for the shootout. Get that first goal and put the pressure on the Senators.

Though Thursday's goal was his first in three shootout attempts this season, Point was tied for second in the NHL last season with five shootout goals in seven attempts. His 71.4 percent success rate was well above the league average, which hovers in the low 30s. This year it is 32.3 percent.

RELATED: Steven Stamkos changing his shootout luck.

"Goalies have the advantage," Victor Hedman said. "In shootouts they have time to get set and be ready for it. You rely on instincts (when shooting) and try to do the right thing."

Hedman is 4-for-18 in shootouts for his career. He knows he is far down on the list of potential shooters because he plays on a team filled with slick-shooting forwards.

"If called upon," Hedman said, "I would gladly go out there and take one."

Nikita Kucherov, 7-for-26 for his career, has an idea of what he wants to do when he begins his rush, then gauges the goalie's reaction to see if he will go with Plan A or Plan B.

If a goalie comes out of the net, Kucherov will try to deke him to open more of the net. If the goalie remains on the goal line, then he looks for the best shot.

"Depends on what the goalie does," Kucherov said, "and you make the decision right away."

Steven Stamkos entered the season 8-for-37 (21.6 percent) in shootouts but is perfect in two tries this year. He has changed his approach, skating toward the goalie's right side, then crossing over to get the goalie leaning left before firing back toward the right side.

MORE LIGHTNING: Victor Hedman is in beat mode.

"You just try to score," Point said. "Come in with an idea and try to beat (the goalie). It's tough to score in shootouts. Goalies are so good. You have make a good move to beat him or make a good shot."

Tyler Johnson said the Lightning goalies — including Ben Bishop, who was traded last season — are quick to share tips on what shots are harder for them to stop and what moves create the most problems for them.

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It is an unnatural part of the game. Shootouts are essentially breakaways, but in the regular part of the game, breakaways are rushed because the skater is trying to avoid defensemen bearing down from behind.

"On a natural breakaways you're getting chased," Johnson said. "You don't have anything in your head. You're just reacting and you're trying to go as fast as you can. In a shootout, you can go as slow as you want. That kind of messes with some people, because maybe you have different things you do when you go fast, but it's tough to go fast when no one is behind you."

There is pressure on the shooters in the shootout, even if they do not like to admit it. With a 32 percent success rate, even the top shooters in the game will get stopped. Jaromir Jagr has said he prefers not to participate.

LIGHTNING STRIKES: Listen to the latest podcast with beat writer Joe Smith.

"I know there's guys who like those breakaways and shootouts, and then there's guys who just don't," Johnson said. "To be honest with you, I'm kind of indifferent on it. I have fun with them, but they're not something I look forward to. It's one of those parts of the game where some people are good at it."

But it is an important part because it determines which team skates off with two points and which one receives only one for the loss. That difference of a point adds up over the course of the season and can affect playoff positioning and even which teams make the postseason and which ones don't.

"When you get the opportunity, you want to go out there and score," Hedman said. "You don't want to lose that extra point. You have a chance to be the hero, and you want to be that. I would love to take one, but I know I'm not high up in the rankings right now."

Contact Roger Mooney at Follow @RogerMooney50.


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