Coyotes' Aucoin a shootout king

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:06 PM ET

Of all the NHLers with more than three shootout attempts this season, only one has a better success rate than Sidney Crosby.

Adrian Aucoin.

Who’d have seen that coming?

Of all the feel-good stories surrounding the Phoenix Coyotes this season, one of the most bizarre is Aucoin’s mastery of the skills competition.

Six chances. Five goals.

And each goal stood up as the deciding tally.

“The king,” Aucoin joked Wednesday morning.

Who knew the Coyotes had a secret weapon?

Actually, until early February, they didn’t.

When the Coyotes and Nashville Predators headed to the 10th round of the shootout in a scoreless game, head coach Dave Tippett finally turned to the former Flame defenceman, who is known more for his hard point shots.

“The defence were all trying to prop one guy up, and they were all for Oakie. So he got the call,” Tippett said. “I watched him a few times in practices, defencemen don’t usually jump into those things, but he did it just like he did it in the games, just walked in there non-chalant and put it in.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

The Coyotes have clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 2002, and a big reason is their 12 shootout wins prior to facing the Flames Wednesday night.

Aucoin leads the league in shooting winners, and has been given the nickname The Closer.

His secret is just to shoot when he reaches the slot.

“I keep it simple. I make sure I get a shot off,” he said. “I don’t want to trip. I don’t want to lose the puck. I don’t want to get pokechecked. I keep it really easy.”

If only the Flames had known what they had.

Of course, the Coyotes only gave him a shot because they were running out of choices, and Aucoin won a competition in practice a few days earlier.

“(Tippett) actually asked me about the sixth or seventh round, and from the look on my face, I think he realized I wasn’t quite up to it yet,” Aucoin said. “Then I went nervous as heck. I was really relieved I’ll tell you that.”

His lone miss came last week, and Tippett has taken more heat than Aucoin because he tapped the defenceman to go second instead of third.

It seems Aucoin is more like Mariano Rivera than some nameless middle reliever.

“We threw him in there at the wrong time,” Tippett admitted.

Aucoin’s success caught some of his former teammates off guard, but the blueliners had to be proud with the way he represented the brethren.

“If you’ve got a guy who shoots the puck as hard as Adrian does, it only makes sense. Whether he’s letting a slapper go or a wrist shot, he’s got a bullet,” Flames defenceman Cory Sarich said. “I’m assuming most of them are shots.”

Who knows? Maybe the Flames coaches may look more to their defencemen.

“I won’t get a shot, so that’s pretty easy to put to rest,” Sarich said. ”Maybe if we go down to the 18th shooter, but that would be the only chance.”

Added Mark Giordano: “I would love to give it a shot, you always want to go, but I think we have a few guys to go first. In the American league, I went into the shootout quite a bit and I don’t think my percentage was quite that good.”

As much as shootout detractors want to say it’s a gimmick, it’s paid dividends for the Coyotes.

“It’s turned into a really good piece of chemistry with our team,” Tippett said. “It’s hard to fabricate those, but situations like this come along, they turn into a really good bonding thing for your group.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca


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