Shanahan weathering goal drought

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

Eighteen seasons ago, Brendan Shanahan wouldn't have found it funny at all.

Nope, as a rookie NHLer, he'd have been climbing the walls, consulting seers, seeking a magic potion.

But nowadays, the Detroit Red Wings power forward sees scoring slumps for what they are -- blips on the career screen, annoying little flatlines that invariably end.

"Two weeks ago, I'm on a scoring streak of 10 or 12 games and all of a sudden, the puck is bouncing the other way," the veteran and former London Knight said.

"My linemates are scoring and I'm not. It's almost comical."

Almost is the operative word.

When your job is to put the puck in the back of the net and you aren't doing it, the humour becomes a little strained.

Shanahan was en route to a spectacular 40-goal, 75-point season, with 20 goals and 38 points when the drought hit.

His name was cropping up as a reserve for a possible third appearance with the Olympic Games team.

Going into the Wings' only game this season -- for the next three seasons, for that matter -- against the Philadelphia Flyers last night, he hadn't scooped a point in seven games. He finally broke through, picking up three assists in a 6-3 win.

Shanahan has been a pro athlete half his life. He has learned you have to be patient or you'll become a patient.

"These things happen. You learn you have to continue doing the things that brought you success. You can't start cheating. The time to start worrying is when you aren't in position for scoring chances."

The possibility of another Olympics went from remote to murmurs of maybe when Shanahan burst from the starting gate. He didn't even consider the likelihood after he wasn't invited to the training camp, but he perked up when rumours began emanating from the office of the organizers.

More than a few people thought Shanahan, who can score from the perimeter and from the goaltender's front porch, would be more valuable for Canada's gold-medal defence than Vancouver's Todd Bertuzzi.

One theory has it Wayne Gretzky and his staff might have added Bertuzzi anyway, but got their backs up over a strong anti-Bertuzzi movement and decided they would not be dictated to.

Bertuzzi, of course, has been censured widely for jumping Colorado's Steve Moore from behind, breaking his neck.

"I heard I had played my way back onto the radar screen, but to be honest, I'd have been surprised to make the team," Shanahan said.

"No matter who they picked -- me, Bertuzzi or neither of us -- there'd be criticism."

Shanahan was proud to be part of Canada's first Olympic gold medal in more than half a century at the last Games, but says the 2006 team will be under extreme pressure to repeat, especially after mostly going with the same players that won the last World Cup.

It isn't always the best team that wins. Shanahan felt Canada's 1998 team that failed in Japan was better than the one that won gold four years later in Salt Lake City.

One reason it's difficult to handicap the Olympics, he says, is some European players come out of the shadows at the five-ring circus and play the best hockey of their lives.

"Some players I thought were just good in the NHL are ready to run through a brick wall at the Olympics and they're outstanding," he said. "This is their Stanley Cup. The Olympics is their thing and they really step it up."

Which makes one wonder why all of them don't pull out all the stops during the NHL season. But that's a question owners paying them millions ought to be asking.


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