After this morning’s scrimmage, the Winnipeg Jets held a mock shootout, something they haven’t done much of in training camp. It was your standard shootout, each player taking a turn. Sticks were banged on the ice for a nice goal, boos for a whiff, and cheers for a big save.
The Jets participated in one shootout during exhibition play, versus 6’6″ Anders Lindback. Jets shooters’ Blake Wheeler, Tim Stapleton and Bryan Little all missed while Cal O’Reilly scored the eventual winner for Nashville.
Last season the Atlanta Thrashers finished 5-7 in shootouts, if the Jets want to increase their chances for a playoff spot, they’ll have to earn points any way possible, and there is room for improvement in the shootout.
In my previous article, “Who Will Shoot for the Winnipeg Jets,” I identified Little, Wheeler and Andrew Ladd as the most successful shooters for Winnipeg. The recent addition of Kyle Wellwood, gives them another player with significant shootout experience. Having scored eight goals on twenty-four shots for a 33.3 shooting percentage, Wellwood ranks second on the team in career shootout goals, attempts and shooting percentage.
With a new coach, new systems and new players, the team has chosen to spend more time on in game strategies as opposed to a mini-game. Coach Claude Noel expanded on this in today’s press conference:
“The problem is there are a hundred and fifty thousand subjects we have to cover. Shootout, d(efensive) zone coverage, forecheck, o(ffensive) zone, offensive play. I try to go through them as we need to go through them. (The) shootout; you’ve got to cover, when you can cover it. If for example you’ve lost eight straight shootouts in a row, it might be a good idea to start practicing the shootout.”
With such little amount of practice time devoted to something that could determine a number of points for the Jets, frequent shooter Blake Wheeler gave his insight on how he approaches the shootout.
“You read and react what the goalie’s doing, you have your head up, you give him a little fake shot see if he bites on it, if he bites you normally have free reign to try and go around him. He (Anders Lindback) is a pretty big goalie (6’6) so he got his leg out there on me. You want to try to get the goalie moving in some way shape or form, because that creates a lot more openings.”
As for any moves in his bag of tricks:
“I don’t have too many set moves, I don’t really go in knowing exactly what I’m going to do, about halfway in I try to do something to get the goalie moving and from there I just try to react.”
Bryan Little had similar views to Wheeler, while he has a few set dangles, approaching the shootout is mostly about reading the goalie and reacting. He said that they did not do any video scouting on goalies, but watching the player before you, may give away some tips on how the goalie will react.
It appears that Coach Noel hasn’t told any players that they will be shooting before a game, as you never know if a game will end in a shootout. The process will be to select them just before the shootout is set to begin. Wheeler hopes to be in a few this upcoming season.
“I like going in them, it’s fun, you want to be a guy who can go out there and make a difference in the game, hopefully I get the opportunity and we’ll see what happens.”
Here’s a video from today’s practice of a few nice shootout goals