While Maxim Lapierre picks up a few goals every season, he isn’t exactly known for his scoring, so it may have seemed odd to see him come out as the first shooter in Saturday’s shootout against the Colorado Avalanche. After all, scoring in the shootout had already been a struggle for the Canucks; how was sending out a fourth-line energy forward going to make things better?
Why did Alain Vigneault choose Lapierre? Simple. Lapierre lied to him.
“Max kept telling me he is four-for-six,” Vigneault said.
So apparently Lapierre didn’t lie just once; he did so repeatedly. He “kept telling” Vigneault that he has scored 4 times in the shootout. Lapierre was, in fact, 3-for-6 in the shootout in his career prior to Saturday’s game.
Let’s face it, a 66% shooting percentage looks a lot better than 50%, but it’s a subtle difference. Deceit is all about subtlety. If Lapierre had told Vigneault that he was 6-for-6 or 5-for-6 in the shootout, it would have sounded unbelievable. Instead, Lapierre ensured that he would get a chance to strut his stuff in the skills competition by crafting a bewilderingly believable lie. Max Lapierre is the Keyser Soze of the Canucks.
Okay, maybe not. It’s more likely that Lapierre or Vigneault just misstated the facts. The sad thing is that Lapierre didn’t need to exaggerate his proficiency; according to career numbers, he was still a worthwhile option in the shootout.
Even with his failed attempt on Saturday, Lapierre leads all active Canucks in career shooting percentage in the shootout, scoring on 3 of 7 attempts for 42.9%. Alex Burrows and Cody Hodgson are right behind at 40%. While those percentages are not bad overall, it means that the Canucks don’t have even one reliable shooter on the team.
Not a single Canuck converts at or near 50% in the shootout. Lapierre, Burrows, and Hodgson are the best percentage-wise, but have taken a total of 7, 15, and 6 shots in the shootout respectively. That simply isn’t enough to accurately judge whether their modest success is repeatable in the future.
Canucks fans and media have been very critical of Vigneault’s choice of shooters recently, and considering the Canucks’ record in the shootout so far this season, it’s an understandable source of griping.
However, these criticisms fail to take into consideration how difficult the decision is. Without a reliable number one shooter, Vigneault is constantly having to rely on his gut to choose his shooters based on how he feels they have played.
Look at Detroit: they have Pavel Datsyuk (29-for-61) as a reliable first option, with Todd Bertuzzi and Jiri Hudler waiting in the wings. The Islanders have Frans Nielsen (19-for-33), the league leader in career shootout shooting percentage. In Chicago, Jonathan Toews (22-for-44) is “clutch.” The New Jersey Devils have the most wins in the shootout this season, largely thanks to Ilya Kovalchuk going 8-for-9 this season.
The Canucks’ best offensive players just aren’t cut out for the shootout, it seems. While the Sedins are certainly capable of astounding plays on the breakaway, they’re more likely to pass one up for a passing play. In the shootout, they’re not good at all. Henrik is 0-for-3 in the shootout and is responsible for a particularly embarrassing attempt against the Florida Panthers. He did score on a penalty shot more recently, so it might be time to give him another chance.
Daniel is 4-for-21, and at 19% is second worst on the team amongst players that have had at least 10 attempts. We’ve examined the numerous reasons why he’s terrible in such situations in the past. To his credit, his 4th career shootout goal made Marty Turco look absolutely awful.
Ryan Kesler is only slightly better at 9-for-33, but still not reliable enough to be the go-to guy. Mason Raymond, at 6-for-19, is closer, but just not consistent enough. The player in the Canucks’ organization with the 3rd most career shootout goals is Steven Reinprecht, who is currently playing with the Wolves.
Vigneault would probably be better served trusting the percentages rather than his gut (or Maxim Lapierre), which would mean sending out Burrows or Hodgson first in the shootout, but it’s completely understandable why he doesn’t. None of the Canucks have established themselves as a trustworthy first option. Until they do, we’ll likely continue to see a hodge-podge of shooters.Tags: Alain Vigneault, Lapierre is sneaky, Maxim Lapierre, Shootout