September 3, 2008
The Rangers participated in 17 shootouts last year going 8-9. Nigel Dawes was the top shooter going 5/9 while making Martin Brodeur look like a 5-year-old goalie while Brendan Shanahan was a staple for the shootout. But Dawes can't be the only person that will be relied on to be a good shooter for the Rangers if Shanahan doesn't return.
Other major candidates for the shootout include two of this year's offseason acquisitions. Markus Naslund has a wrist shot that is as good as Shanahan's. The difference between Shanahan and Naslund is that Naslund has some speed and some moves as well which makes him much more unpredictable. He will be a good addition to the shootout lineup.
If anyone has seen videos of what Nikolai Zherdev has done during actual play to score goals, imagine what he can do in the shootout with no one around him. His skills are above and beyond anyone on the team right now when it comes to undressing the goaltender. Jaromir Jagr was supposed to be the biggest skill player for the shootout, but didn't ever want to do it. Zherdev will take that role and will participate in the shootout for sure.
Other candidates include Petr Prucha, Fredrik Sjostrom, and maybe Brandon Dubinsky. But there is no doubting the fact that the Rangers have a good shootout lineup for this season.
In goal, they have Henrik Lundqvist who thrives on these pressure situations. Every year, he has made big saves in the shootout and kept the Rangers going during these competitions. He will need to continue that kind of play. Steve Valiquette has done well also.
So the verdict? The Rangers have a very good shootout team with 3-5 guys who have the skills to be formidable shootout opponents and two goalies who are very tough to beat. Hopefully they won't need to go to the shootout too many times this year, but at least they will have a decent chance each time.