Theory of Shooting

15% Hockey 105% Lax

Allow me to clear the air, if there was some way my parents could adopt Evgeni Malkin thus making him my younger brother I would be all for it. But before Gene arrived to Pittsburgh, and after the lock out I was rather focused on Alexander Ovechkin. Although during the 2005-2006 season I never requested that my parents adopt him because he looks like a werewolf and is probably stronger.

The first season back from the lockout Crosby was asked to save hockey in Pittsburgh. Things had gotten so bad even Lemiuex had to play a few shifts to generate interest. Ovechkin was not charged with such a significant off ice task. Washington simply asked him to shoot the puck. Crosby was made the youngest captain in the league giving him more responsibility, possibly added distraction for such a young guy, possibly something he didn’t even deserve, wasn’t even capable of. Ovechkin is still an assistant captain. Just because you are the best player on the team doesn’t mean you are the best leader, but that’s for another day.  

The argument in the Crosby vs Ovechkin battle has always been centered around goal scoring. Pittsburgh fans will say Crosby could score that many goals if he shot the puck 20 times a game. Well guess what, you play to win the game.

Suddenly, shooting 20 pucks a night has gotten AO and the Capitals in the driver’s seat in the Southeast division. Suddenly, passing the puck and setting up your teammates all the time is no longer working to which Penguins fans myself included will argue that in one season AO’s teammates have gotten a lot better than Sidney’s. 

And this is why I was originally attracted to Ovechkin’s style of play far more than Sidney’s. How many times a game can even the most hardcore hockey purist get excited over a pass? If you play to win the game, such as former head coach Herm Edwards suggests, at what point do you decide to take it upon yourself to put the puck, ball, sphere, square, into the back of the net, into the basket, over the goal line, into the back of the old onion bag?

Ovechkin plays without Jimney Cricket on his shoulder. Sidney might as well have a hundred crickets on his shoulder. The best shooters are not afraid to shoot. Not afraid to make it. Not afraid to miss. Humble in victory. Accountable in defeat. Even if AO takes 19 shots in a game and misses all of them, he will still shoot again and believe in his cold Russian heart that number 20 will again.

So why did I prefer AO to Sid three years ago, prior to the arrival of Gene Malks? Because AO was and remains a deadly goal scorer with an NBA player’s vertical leap celebration. He plays with the passion of a caged lion and has gotten his team into the playoffs for the second year in a row. Because if you can’t help but smile watching Ovechkin youtube higlights. Because when I watched Sidney play on Monday when we desperately needed a victory, I was screaming at the television, “Stop passing the puck you pussy.” I’ve tried to give Sidney the benefit of the doubt, he’s injured this year, Shero has done nothing to help him, etc. But at the end of a game if I need a goal and there’s a 2 on 1 rush, I want Ovechkin on the puck because I know he’s shooting because he wants to. Sidney will pass it and with that pass the opportunity for your best player to take it upon himself win the game will be gone. 

I used to think Sidney reminded me of JJ Redick. White, elite athlete, constant complainer (NHL players call Crosby, Cindy), fans hate them (I still wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night when I think about what Maryland’s student section said to JJ). But that’s no longer the case. Because JJ had no problem doing this:

Jesus. No just JJ, but he is very spiritual.

There are two events that have caused me to consider the shooting vs passing AO vs Sid debate. Both of which occurred last night.

First of all, dear God in heaven.

Second of all, I absolutely loath Joe Beninati. And I blame the fall of the MLL on a combination of his announcing skills and Quint Kessnich’s ego. Having said that, I did not know that he played lax at Bowdoin where he still holds the school record for saves in a season. Having said that, Bowdoin’s defense was probably garbo that season and more often than not I’m sure he got hit with the ball rather than making a save.

And finally, the difference between Ovechkin and Crosby? Ovechkin shoots the puck and scores. Crosby tries to pass it to the winger coming in late.


But it’s still not as good as this (mind the celebration):


In our first game, I finished with 1 goal and 2 assists. The first practice after the game Coach told us how many shots we took. I registered 3 total shots. Now after 800 plus words talking about Ovechkin taking it upon himself to win the game for his team, I’m beginning to feel my nose grow.

Coach said we (the attack) needed to take more shots.

Coach said we (the attack) needed to drive more often.

Initially I recoiled. I thought I did drive enough. I thought attackmen are supposed to drive to draw a slide and dump it to a middie for a time and room shot or God help him if he were cutting to the crease. I thought attackmen are the quarterbacks of the offense and unless you’re a sloppy Canadian crease attackman or just simply a sloppy attackman with great hands who gets loud on the weekends and sweats a lot at parties, you pass first. 

Really starting to feel like Crosby not Ovechkin right now. Pausing to collect my thoughts.


Well that’s certainly one way of looking at it. 

So in looking back on the game against WMU perhaps there were more opportunities to shoot, more opportunities to drive to the cage, more opportunities to make something happen.

I confess my on field play is decidedly more 87 than 8. In my best statistical season, I had 6 goals 42 assists, although one of the goals was scored in the championship game.

I’m not afraid to shoot. I just feel like I can draw a slide better than our other attackman. I like sharing the ball. I enjoy being a playmaker. The secret service can’t guard me.

Before the WVU game I told myself every shot I took would be from a different angle and surprisingly that actually occurred. Shot 1 was low to low. I thought I could shoot through a screen and while the ball got through the first wave, a close defender ducked in the crease and the ball smashed off his ankle. Shot 2 was on the run, between whatever side arm and 3/4s is, so 2/3s? I don’t know, just missed off hip. Shot 3 as I’ve said before was a thing of low to high beauty beating the goalie near side, but high off stick. I have to thank my teammates for shooting low to low for a majority of the game because I imagine the goalie froze for a moment when he saw me drop the head of my stick before pumping an 81 mph barn burner by him.

In retrospect I think I challenged the goalie, but I agree with Coach, I’d like to do it more often, but therein lies the tight rope to walk. Like I said I feel comfortable beating my man, drawing a slide and banging it to the open man. I could have finished with 4 or 5 assists but the connections just weren’t made. Do I begin to not trust my teammates because they are dropping feeds or not finishing? Do I begin to look shot first and pass second because Coach thats what Coach wants? Why does he want that? Does he not trust my teammates? Does he want me to be AO not Sid?

At practice last night, in the rain, as Coach was screaming drive drive drive, I probably took my defender to the cage 25 times out of 45 possessions.

Stats: one goal on two shots

Buckets of assists

Buckets of forces to the crease

One  turnover while carrying the ball

 So I listened to 50% of Coach’s requests, tonight’s practice I’ll try to take at least 7 shots in 6 on 6. We’ll see 

I can relate to Sidney’s predicament in this way. Last night I was working primarily with the second offensive group and when I say second offensive group I mean the second offensive group. I was the only attackman attackman, we have 4 on the roster believe it or not, and one attackman was missing last night because of night class. My attack linemates consisted of our 3rd d middie and a 4th line o middie. Let’s stop right there. Maybe last night, I had to pass first because the defense was going so early because I was the only threat. Maybe Sidney has to pass so often because Hossa is gone and no one is afraid of his linemates.

I’m not willing to let either of us off the hook so early, and Sidney’s hook is borderline I Know What You Did Last Summer sized. Tonight’s practice is scheduled to be be offense first. I’ll do my best to remember everything I can stats wise to see if there is an improvement in productivity. 

Sure its great scoring overtime winning goals. Dating the prom queen. Driving fast cars.

But I’ve always believed I’d rather be a role player on a winning team than a star on a losing team. However, I think our coach is pushing me to take charge of the offense of a winning team.

Perhaps there’s something in the way the new Penguins coach is thinking:

Bylsma’s philosophy is built on the fact that he doesn’t want his team reading and reacting to the plays on the ice. Instead, the new head coach wants the Penguins to force the issue and assert their will by dictating the game.

Maybe the message was, “Take it upon yourself”


Banger Rang

Banger Rang



Song du jour casual Thursday afternoon




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