Before looking forward to the upcoming season, I looked back at the 2007-2008 season and tried to find an area where the Rangers could have been better. One area that popped out was the shootout.
The Rangers record in the shootout was 8-9, and with the Rangers only missing the Atlantic Division title by 5 points, a couple of shootout wins (and not blowing a 5-0 lead in Montreal) would have put the Rangers in contention for at least 2nd place in the conference, as they already had more points than 3rd place Washington.
When breaking down the Rangers' shootouts, one stat that was clear was the lack of consistency in the players in the shootout. Out of the 17 shootouts the Rangers had, only Brendan Shanahan, who is now gone, was the only player who had more than 10 appearances in the shootout (15). Also, superstars Jaromir Jagr and Chris Drury combined to go 0-for-10 in the shootout, forcing Tom Renney to often use players like Nigel Dawes, Brandon Dubinsky, and Ryan Callahan.
So, with all this in mind, here are my top 5 players for the Rangers to use in shootouts for 2008-2009, along with their 2008 shootout stats:
1. Nigel Dawes (5-for-9) The Rangers caught lightning in a bottle with Dawes, who provided 4 game-winners in the shootout. With a lethal wrist shot and soft hands, expect Renney to continue to send him out for the shootout in '09.
2. Nikolai Zherdev (5-for-8) Very similar to Dawes, Zherdev dekes goalies left and right (or forehand and backhand), and was successful 5 of his first 6 attempts.
3. Scott Gomez (2-for-4) After losing faith in Drury and Jagr, Renney decided to go with the speedy center, and he responded by scoring on his last two attempts against Ryan Miller and Martin Brodeur. Although not a high goal scorer, Gomez, if he is still in New York by the time the season starts, will get many more chances this year.
4. Petr Prucha (1-for-4) Despite lack of attempts and success in the shootout last year, Prucha still has the skill set for a player who can have success in the shootout. He can deke, unleash a wrist shot, and has 4 game-winning shootout goals in his career.
5. Markus Naslund (1-for-5) Naslund struggled in the shootout last season, but odds are Renney will trust the veteran. Naslund can shoot the puck, and more importantly, he finds the back of the net.