The element of surprise - it's a strategic component that's been around forever, from Sun Tzu to Chemistry Cat. And over the course of the first half of this 2011-12 season, Marcus Johansson has given us the opportunity to see its effectiveness in action.
Early on, Johansson was tipping (think "telegraphing," not "deflecting") his shots quite a bit. Predictably, this has resulted in a lot of relatively easy saves for opposing netminders. But he's been making strides in that area, and the difference is clear. After the jump, we'll take a look at how Johansson was tipping his shots, and how he's adjusted over the course of the season.
First up is a clip from back on October 27 when the Caps visited the Edmonton Oilers. What we see is Johansson ending up with a clear chance on net, but he drops his left shoulder and ends up shooting the puck right into Nikolai Khabibulin (you can see it best in the replay at the very end of the clip):
By dropping his left shoulder Johansson signals two things: that he is about to shoot, and that he's likely shooting high. That's a huge advantage to a veteran goalie like Khabibulin (though I suspect even NHL rookies would be able to read that play). The result: what should have been a prime scoring opportunity is harmlessly defused by Khabibulin.
Now let's take a look at what Johansson has done since that play (and what he should try to do more often).
The very next game against the Vancouver Canucks, Johansson came streaking down the wing and had an open shot on Roberto Luongo:
Look at how level Johansson's shoulders stay. This makes the release quicker and better-disguised; it gives the goalie less time to anticipate and react to the shot.
Now let's take a look at Johansson's first goal in Monday night's loss to the Los Angeles Kings:
The only tell Johansson has in that shot is the raised skate, but that's often a decoy and doesn't give away as much as the dipped shoulder does. By the time his shoulders give away the shot he's already into the shot release and there isn't much the goalie is going to divine.
Guys like Joe Sakic and Brad Richards are famous for their quick releases, and their shots were effective in large part because it was impossible to see the shot coming. It's unrealistic to expect Johansson to be the kind of goal-scorer Joe Sakic was, but if he can continue to fire his shots off quickly, more accurately, and less predictably, we may soon come to expect him to chip in even more offense than we might have previously thought him capable of. Being respected as a scorer can also open up more passing lanes, increasing overall scoring potential, right Nick?