Maxim Lapierre totally lied to Vigneault to get in the shootout

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.

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28 comments

  1. sarah
    February 6, 2012

    It sometimes seems likes its the players you wouldn’t expect who are good at shoot outs [Wellwood anyone?] so I wonder why AV doesn’t try out more players [Booth, Manny, Higgy, Ballard, other D men]. I guess it could be that these guys are awful in practice, but never know.

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  2. Steveston Mark
    February 6, 2012

    If I see Henrik on a shootout attempt, I’d be afraid of him making a drop pass to the trailer.

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  3. Fan#789
    February 6, 2012

    what happened with the Salo-Is-Your-Pal-O contest????

    where are the results

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  4. Rituro
    February 6, 2012

    It’s the old conundrum: you need experience to be experienced, but you’re not going to be sent out to shoot unless you’re experienced. (I’m sure there’s a more elegant way of saying that.) Lapierre, Burrows, Hodgson, Raymond and Kesler seem like our best picks for the shootout; pick three, go with them every single time and build up that skill set. Results will follow.

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    • Owen
      February 6, 2012

      Rituro – here’s a theory only – the idea of focussing on a specialist seems ok, but goalies study tape on probable shooters. By playing the same guys religiously, you end up in a situation like starting pitchers who only have one pitch. Expanding the players keeps goalies guessing.

      There seems to be a move to allowing creativity in practice, where guys try and perfect a new move. Coaches watch it, and then when they feel theyve developed it, they let them ride it until it’s not a surprise anymore.

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      • Rituro
        February 6, 2012

        Not a bad theory; it sounds perfectly reasonable that goalies would study the suspected shooter — wasn’t there a tale years ago that Luongo had an actual book on every shooter he’d faced? — which may explain why Burrows’ backhand-roof move sees less playtime.

        That said, At least you know Burr *has* a move and can, compared to the rest of the team, put the puck in the net with some reliability. Short of amping up shootout focus in practice (which, all things considered, is perhaps not the wisest course of action), I’m struggling to think of another way we could groom a shootout “specialist”.

        Well, aside from this crazy rumour I heard from an inside source regarding a three-way trade involving Schneider, Frans Nielsen, Jussi Jokkinen and a third-round pick.

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  5. Lia
    February 6, 2012

    I want to see more of edler during the shootouts. that could be interesting

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  6. Frank Nelissen
    February 6, 2012

    It’s funny how there are parallels in the mentality towards the penalty kick in soccer and the penalty shot in hockey. Coaching staff and players often state that you cannot train for these situations as you can not simulate the stress levels or the pressure of the real moment in a game. I would beg to differ.
    If you train extensively and thus develop your skill and technique to the point that you have a specialty move or perfected shot (in hockey) or can kick the ball in your favourite corner (in soccer), you will have more confidence and are thus better equipped to deal with the stress and have a better chance of actually scoring.

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    • Frank Nelissen
      February 6, 2012

      So here’s hoping that the Canucks work on this so they can have more success and pick up those extra points. Plus, wouldn’t these developed skills also help you on a breakaway during the game!?

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    • Nick
      February 6, 2012

      @Frank N
      You hit the nail on the head. It’s unbelievable how nonchalant AV is about shootout preparation. Two or three points could make the difference between playing a stronger versus a weaker playoff team, and playing on home ice versus on the road (where refs are often intimidated by home-team fans; e.g., Boston last spring).

      Gillis is quite progressive (e.g., dietician, psychologist, sleep doctor) and puts a lot of thought into how the team can get any possible edge on the competition. If MG thinks some new twist on game preparation might help even a little bit, it seems like he’ll give it a shot. Vigneault, on the other hand, is his opposite; is more old school, and doesn’t seem willing to even try to refute the prevailing opinion (misconception) that you can never improve shootout ability with practice, so why bother.

      I don’t agree with a lot of what he says, but John Garrett was arguing on Saturday that the Canucks could be better at shootouts if they practiced it consistently in a friendly competition. Americans versus Swedes; Ontario boys versus BC boys; etc. Make it fun, let the ones with a talent for it rise to the top, and it can only help Luongo to improve his approach to it.

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    • John in Marpole
      February 6, 2012

      Although practice does make perfect (or as near to that as a human can be), predictability is not a good thing when it comes to participating in a shootout. NHL goaltenders are aware of shooter tendancies, so having 1 big shoutout move wouldn’t ensure success since opposing goaltenders would be aware of the move.

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      • Tristan
        February 6, 2012

        I would take “predictability” over getting to center ice with a point on the line and not having any plan whatsoever. I just cannot wrap my head around our lack of basic preparation. Every player on the team should have two practiced moves in his pocket. That’s all that needs to happen. They’re not all going to work, they’re not all suddenly going to become Datsyukian, but for heaven’s sake.

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      • Nick
        February 6, 2012

        Exactly! By not working hard on shootouts in practice, most Canucks don’t have a repertoire of shootout moves and, instead, have only one or two tricks in their bag. On the other hand, a guy like Steve Stamkos, who practices it constantly, can beat goalies in so many different ways because he spends time working on and perfecting them.

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  7. Dave
    February 6, 2012

    Here’s the new game plan: start every shootout with Sami Salo. He skates into the slot and fires a full-steam slapper straight on goal. If he scores, yay! If the goalie’s dumb enough to try and stop the cannonball flying at him, then he’s likely handicapped for the next two shooters. It’s a win-win!

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    • Bea
      February 6, 2012

      Genius.

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  8. Nick
    February 6, 2012

    My favourite Canucks on the shootout were Linden and Wellwood. There were as likely as not to shoot from a little further out, often high, stick-side, and they made scoring look easy. This is what works best in game on break aways.

    The guys who are easier to stop (e.g., Sedins) usually come in slow, get too close before making any moves, and depend on their backhand to beat the goalie. Goalies keep a book on players, and know with these guys they don’t have to worry about setting up for a shot from the slot.

    Jiri Hudler is among the most successful in the league and, as we saw in the shootout in the Detroit game, his trademark move is the Linden/Wellwood shot from the slot. If the Canucks practiced shootouts intensely, and with the goal of becoming the best in the league, they’d have a better idea about what works … and I’ll bet we’d see more slot shots and fewer feeble attempts in close.

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    • sarah
      February 6, 2012

      One of my favourites was always Ruutu

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  9. natevk
    February 6, 2012

    IF one of Burrows or Cody have taken 6 shots in the shootout, how are either of them at 40%? I’m an Arts student, but the math doesn’t add up for me…

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  10. shoes
    February 6, 2012

    It is a conundrum all right, but really why AV is not more in tune with the reality of the SO is beyond me…..probably about 6 points are being left on the table each season over this issue .

    I would like to see Hodgson, Burrows, Sedin, Sedin, Kesler, and KB too.

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    • Brentals
      February 7, 2012

      See my post below about this, but the SO leaves about 5 points on the table per season, and those would only be available if we had a 100% win rate in the shootout (not really likely). Those points also wouldn’t have made a difference in the past few seasons (especially last season), even if we had gotten those 5 points on the table somehow. We would have had 4 more pts (4W-4L in SO) in 09-10, giving us 107 pts, still leaving us 3rd in the conference behind SJ and CHI with 113 and 112 pts respectively. In 2008, we left 7 pts on the table, which would have given us 107 pts, agains leaving us in the same 3rd place position behind SJ and DET with 117 and 112 respectively. This means that to Vancouver, winning the SO is completely useless in the overall regular season, and the more important thing is getting to OT when it looks like you are chalking up another loss. Also outright winning games means the most.

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      • J21
        February 7, 2012

        Just because it hasn’t made a difference in a very limited sample size in the last few years, which has also depended hugely on what everyone else does, doesn’t mean it never will. It’s not only conceivable that the Canucks will eventually have a season where their placement comes down to one or two points, it’s incredibly likely.

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      • Frank Nelissen
        February 9, 2012

        While being lazy and not checking the facts, allow me to add this. If we leave 5, 7 or however many points on the table, we allow certain opponents to walk away with those. So although we might not have benefited from those extra points in the seasons you point out, maybe another team would (not) have made the play-offs. Remember how Chicago made the play-offs on the last day last season?

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  11. Iron Man
    February 6, 2012

    I am just so happy you referenced The Usual Suspects with the Keyser Soze remark

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  12. Snepsts
    February 6, 2012

    Last year eight games went to shootout, Vancouver won three. Four of eight games were won by Vancouver in overtime (if I counted everything correctly). I think AV is happy with his OT percentages. This year Vancouver is 4-for-9 on the shootout and 5-for-5 in OT. Maybe they play to win in OT. It would be interesting to see how teams rank in OT vs the shootout, as some teams must play defensively in OT to get the shootout, and others offensively to win in OT. It seems to me the Canucks focus on being good at 4-on-4 to win in the shootout. If so, I’m ok with that. As a coach, I would focus on 4-on-4, not shootout competitions – keep the team focus.

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  13. Brentals
    February 7, 2012

    Over the past 4 seasons, the Canucks have only gone to shootout a max of 10 games and avg. 9 (inclusive of this one). The avg. shootout percentage we have gotten is 41.67%. The league avg. this season is about 48%, but even increasing our percentage to 67% only gets us 2 more SO wins on average per season which equals 2 more points total. If you factor that in over the past 3 seasons, 2 more points in the standings does absolutely nothing for the end results. So unless you can guarantee a huge jump in shootout wins by practicing (not at all guaranteed btw), then what is the point in practicing it?

    If you didn’t think MG and AV were smart before, them not practicing the shootout and focusing on the way more important factors of the game that get you outright WINS should seem to expose them for the intelligent hockey minds they are. Practice time is to get the entire game plan in place and focus on shoring up weak play while building on successes in previous games. If you win more games because of solid play due to practice, and get to less shootouts overall than other teams by just winning (see 2010-2011 season) then would it actually make any sense for the Canucks to spend even a moment of time on the shootout in practice? Canucks, please continue your methods of practicing important game-based skills/situations like the power-play, penalty kill, defensive situations, breakout passing, goalie practice, 5-on-5 play etc. Thank you.

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    • Frank Nelissen
      February 9, 2012

      @ Brentals. I agree that winning a game in regulation is preferable. And so practicing to achieve that as well. One aspect of practicing the shoot-out would be that it presents a skill transferrable to break-aways, and what is not to like to score more on those!?

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  14. kelowna1777
    February 7, 2012

    PITB , Daniel, you guys have built really good creds. This ‘headline’ is a mistake on your part. Many people who don’t read your story will remember the headline. No-one, including Max, deserves to be called a liar based on the facts you have presented!

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  15. JDM
    February 7, 2012

    Burr may not be great in the shootout, but he is good. Cody has moves and a shot and that intuition that’s so difficult to quantify; I think he has the potential to be really good. Raymond’s tough because maybe half his goals have come on the spinorama and you just can’t have that be your go-to move, but he’s capable. We haven’t really seen what David Booth or Jannik Hansen can do, and both of those guys have the skill set to potentially be good at this.

    I think, realistically, you need to pick your guys, and stick with them. Because AV shuffles his shootout lineup so much, no one really gets comfortable doing it. You’re going to be in a much better headspace to finish a play with confidence and without second-guessing if it’s the 10th time you’ve done it this year versus the first time in 4 months. Vigneault needs to decide who his guys are. If someone has a hot hand in that particular game, you can always sub him in.

    I agree that Hank and Dank need to get another whack at this. Maybe they’re better now. I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw those guys picked for a shootout, it wasn’t this season and I don’t remember it happening last year either.

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