The Shootout: Nikita Gusev

How is Gusev's shootout production 2x greater than most NHL players'?

Nikita Gusev entered the NHL during the 2019-2020 in a respectable fashion, putting up 44 points in 66 games with the New Jersey Devils. What’s more impressive is his ability to continuously beat goalies in a 1v1 situation after 65 minutes of play.

Being T-10th place in scoring % among shooters with greater than 3 shootout attempts (66.7%), and 5th place among shooters with greater than 5 shootout attempts in 2019-2020, this is no small feat. Especially when he had taken the second most shootout shots (9) of anyone in the NHL that season to produce a decent sample size for me to examine his methods. The surprising part? Nikita Gusev only used two shootout moves that season.

All in all since entering the NHL, I’ve seen a total of 14 shootout attempts for Gusev across his two years (preseason & regular season). Out of those 14 attempts, he has used a grand total of 4 different moves. Out of those 4 different moves, he has only used 2 of those moves on one occasion. If you’re understanding what I’m trying to get at, it’s that the goalies should pretty much know what to expect when facing “Goose”.

Move #1

You’ll soon notice with nearly every single shootout attempt, he has the same run-up. He skates slightly to the right, over to the left (his shooting side), then back to the middle before deciding which move to use.

Notice how he doesn’t stickhandle the puck at all either. He picks up the puck on his forehand, transfers it to his backhand, and then again to. his forehand before a quick release.

Also, by planting his feet wide prior to his shot, this can also get the goalie to believe that he’s setting his left foot down as an anchor in order to pull the puck to his backhand for a quick shot over the goalies right pad. Further evidence to support this is how a couple of the goalies have all their weight stacked onto their left foot, anticipating a need to push off that foot over to the right side.

Move 2

Despite there not being perfect ice conditions during the shootout, it’s surprising to see a skilled guy like Gusev mishandle the puck on 2/3 chances with this move.

Also note how in the latter two moves, he adds a leg kick in there to further convince the goalie of a shot.

Move 3

With a slight modification to his routine run-up, he then slows the pace down, reads the goalie and spots an opening in the bottom right corner before releasing the puck from his hip pocket (read more about that here).

Move 4

Gusev comes in, places the puck into his hip pocket and fakes a forehand shot to freeze the goalie & to get him in a butterfly stance. From then he opens up his blade to push the puck with his forehand slightly to the right side before taking a quick snap shot at the newly created opening of the top portion of the net.

Seems like Gusev took some notes from Ex-Leaf Joffrey Lupul:

Although Gusev has now been released from his PTO with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and instead signed again with SKA Saint Petersburg in the KHL, we were lucky to catch a brief glimpse of some of his shootout simplicity which leads to brilliant results.

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