Toronto Maple Leafs President Brendan Shanahan scored 656 goals in his NHL career. He is the only member of the exclusive 600-goal club, which now has 20 members, who had more than 2,000 penalties minutes. Shanahan was an aggressive power forward who could score.
He scored 50 goals twice, potted 40 goals four times and scored 30 goals six times. He had 12 seasons of 30+ goals and had over 20 in every other season except his rookie year in 1988, when he scored 7-19-16 at 18 years young, and in his final season when he scored 6-8-14 in 34 games at the age of 39.
Shanahan is a Hall of Famer and he shared his thoughts on Ovechkin, and the art of goal scoring.
Shanahan joined Jason Strudwick and me on TSN 1260 to discuss Ovechkin joining the 600-goal club. Shanahan had some interesting insight into shooter’s hands, and we even got his version of the scrap he and Struddy had many years ago.
Gregor: What were your impressions of Ovechkin when you played against him?
Shanahan: I had heard Ted Lindsey describe [Maurice] Rocket Richard as someone who was the most determined person he ever saw or witnessed to score a goal, and that Rocket somehow, someway, whether it was on his back or on his backside, was going to get a shot on goal, and he was going to get a scoring chance. I would say for me and players I saw, that was Ovechkin. He was in that mold and there was an excitement and an exuberance about him once he got the puck that he was going to find a way to get to the net and get a shot on goal.
Strudwick: Shanny, I love your description of it because he is very excited to score goals and I thought his goal last night to get to 600 was a beautiful illustration of that. When he’s fighting for the puck, he did not stop. I think he took two or three whacks at it. It was kind of a grinders goal, but this guy does not want to be stopped. Does it take that desire to get to his level of scoring, and they’re not all going to be on the TSN highlights?
Shanahan: I really do believe when you look at guys like [Teemu] Selanne and some of these great goal scorers, we tend to remember their most beautiful end-to-end rushes, but you’ve got to get a lot of ugly ones too and I thought it was that for Ovie. He has scored a lot of beautiful goals, but that one was one of those sheer determination garbage goals where he just kept whacking at it and whacking at it and if you want to get that many goals, they can’t all be on breakaways or from the wing or from the high slot. You’ve also got to go to the net where the garbage lays.
Strudwick: There is no doubt that he’s done that, but he’s known for that shot, just to the right of the goaltender. I’m sure everyone is watching him when he’s going to set up there, but it doesn’t seem like anyone can stop him. He’s got a 150 or more goals from that spot.
Shanahan: Well it was an easier place to score from when goaltenders were smaller and their style was different. They used to come out and really challenge so rather than get six feet across from post-to-post when they were challenging they had to get twelve, fifteen feet across, so to park yourself on the wall and take one timers a lot of times you were shooting it into a yawning net.
What’s really impressive for me was I thought once the goalies got bigger and got deeper in the crease that the one timer from the side was dead, but players like Ovechkin and [Steven] Stamkos and we see even Patrick Laine, I guess for the elite shooter it still exists, it’s just not something that everyone can do. That’s what’s really been impressive about him is he’s one timing that puck and still having to beat the goalie and often times he’ll beat them to the short side, but if the goalie has already gotten there, he has the ability to make a quick decision, a split second decision, and go back against the grain from where the goalie came from and put it over his glove.
Gregor: Henrik Lundqvist spoke the other day about how he believes Ovechkin has a curve to his shot, where the puck curves a little bit. You were a very good lacrosse player, were you able to curve the puck when you shot it?
Shanahan: No. I don’t think that I put any action on the puck. It’s funny, I am curious about shooters and shooting and the way that you finish with your hands. Mine was a little bit unorthodox. I finished with my hands up and open. It was good for hockey, it gave me more control with my one-timer, but it killed me in my golf game because I sliced the ball.
But I don’t see Ovechkin do that. I see Laine finish with his hands up but certainly if you can turn your hands over like he does, you get more power on the puck. And that’s the amazing thing with all of the power he has he still seems to have control. So I’m not surprised with the way sticks are these days that there is some action on the puck and I’ll take the goalies word for it. I wouldn’t know but if Lundqvist is saying it then I believe it.
Strudwick: Shanny, you talked a little bit about the sticks. The sticks have changed so much. I can only imagine what your fist stick in the NHL looked like compared to at the end. How much has that changed in step with the goalies and their development and size increase?
Shanahan: I still think that players like Al Macinnis, who were great shooters in their eras, would be great shooters in this era and they would stand apart. I guess with the technology of the stick, I guess what it’s done is, like I said, the [Nikita] Kucherovs, the Ovechkins, the Laines the guys that I see off to the side one timing pucks, they’re still elite shooters. I think the technology is just sort of, it’s made everyone else good, or even very good. Whereas the Macinnis and others of our era really, really stood apart. I think both sides are trying to stay one step ahead of each other, players are getting better technology with their sticks, but the goaltenders are also getting better coaching and bigger equipment and just know more about their position as well.
Gregor: You mentioned Patrick Laine as a young scorer who lots of people look at as maybe the next great sniper. There is also Auston Matthews. He and Laine were at the exact same goals per game pace through their first two seasons, prior to Matthews injury. Can you compare or contrast their style of shooting scoring?
Shanahan: Well I’ve been comparing Laine with Ovechkin because of the style of where they shoot from and where they shoot it. Auston seems to be a guy who can score from a lot of different ways as well. I see him take more wrist shots and he does spend time around the net as well.
I just think however you score your goals — and when I think of Ovechkin I do think of guys like Stamkos — but however you score goals, what really is incredible is that he’s done it for so long. I’ve heard Ken Hitchcock talking about him and saying the just amazing thing about Ovie is that we all have a game plan for him, we all adapt our penalty kill for him and he never goes into a building where there isn’t a game plan to keep the puck away from him, yet he still maintains the ability to do this. So guys like Auston Matthews, they’ll go through that as well in their careers, constantly having to adjust their game and adjust their shot and the places they go and just trying to stay one step ahead of the coaching and the defense.
Gregor: You are the only member of the 600 goal club with over two thousand penalty minutes. You were not only a goal scorer but you were also willing to stand up for yourself. How important do you think that that is, even today with fighting down, for guys to create space? Did you feel your feistiness created more space for you?
Shanahan: I played in a different era, and so however you create space for yourself, whether it’s with your speed, or your size, or intimidation, you look for any angle to gain an edge. I think that I did what I had to do in the era that I played in to get an edge and get more space. It helped me for sure, but today’s game is different, and goal scorers will find different ways to do it.
Strudwick: It will be interesting to see what Ovechkin can do going forward because he does not seem to be letting off. He just seems to keep pounding that puck in there and D-men just keep trying to figure it out. It’s remarkable.
Shanahan: It’s very impressive and I think he’s a good person, he’s good for our game and he’s so exuberant. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of times. I played in an All Star game with him and it was my birthday. He had asked if he could throw a cake in my face or something like that (laughs) and I think the trainers said ‘No, let’s not do that.’ But that’s the kind of fun, good-natured kid that he is, although he’s not a kid anymore. So it’s really nice to see and again, from somebody who had a chance to play against him and just watch him now, he’s been very good for this game.
Gregor: Before we let you go…I’ve heard Struddy’s side of the fight you two had. Can you give me your version of what happened? What did he do to get you so mad to go after him with only three minutes remaining in the game?
Shanahan: [Laughs] I think we’ve been through this before?
Gregor: No we haven’t (laughs). I always hear Struddy’s side of things which at times tend to be a little different than the truth.
Shanahan: (laughs). You know I think Struddy got his stick up, (laughs) you did, and then he got me in the ear. So I had to go in for stitches and I was getting stitched up and I kept saying to the doctor, ‘hurry up, hurry up, hurry up, the game is almost over. I need to get back out there.’
And years later when Struddy and I played together (Rangers), what I found the funniest is he thought that I was gone for the game and then with about a minute or two left, what surprised him the most was in a game against Detroit, he saw a pair of red gloves on the ice and someone skating toward him. We weren’t really known for fighting in Detroit, but we had a little go and then I think that Struddy looked at me after the fight and said, ‘I didn’t mean to do that on purpose.’ I said okay and that was it. When we got to play on the same team a few years later, there was an understanding that he did it by accident but that I did what I had to do, and he did what he had to do, and in the course of the fight he might have smacked me in that newly sewn up ear just once and I packed it in and clung on for dear life (laughs).
I also asked Shanahan about the recent goal reviews and offside reviews. Do both need to be revisited and cleaned up, and does he think it’s possible?
“I think with the quality of the camerawork now that it’s revealing things that probably happened in our game a lot more than we probably realized it ten, twenty, thirty years ago. So I think it’s just sort of uncovered things that we hadn’t seen. I think it will never be perfect, but you can always try to improve upon the process and I think that is what they are trying to talk about now. You’re always going to have some subjectivity to some of these calls, so on any given night not everyone is going to be happy, but what I think what we have to continue to do is just get better at how we come to these decisions. That is where they are right now and whatever decision they come to, you constantly continue to try to improve it without drastically changing our game every season. I think you have to just keep doing a better and better job as you go forward,”said Shanahan.
The biggest issue for the NHL leading to the playoffs is no one really knows what goaltender interference is. The Dumoulin disallowed goal versus Toronto last weekend should have counted. He scored before he made contact with the goalie, but the on-ice referees called it off. I’m fine with human error at full speed, it happens, but what is frustrating is when they go to instant review, watch the video in super slow motion and still get it wrong.
And can we please change the offside review? If your skate is off the ice, but not inside the zone, it should not be offside. In the natural flow of skating a player will lift their skate off the ice, and now we are seeing goals disallowed because of it. In my eyes, the offside review where goals are called off due to having your skate off the ice, but not inside the offensive zone, is the worst rule in pro sports. It is terrible. There is no advantage gained by having your blade above the blueline. Fix it.
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