Shootout choices questioned

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:05 AM ET

When a pitcher goes stale, a baseball manager calls the bullpen and makes a trip to the mound.

So shouldn't Pat Quinn be ambling to centre ice the next time the Maple Leafs have a shootout and take the puck away from Mats Sundin, Darcy Tucker and Alexei Ponikarovsky? His preferred snipers are 1-for-12 after the Leafs' 3-2 overtime loss to Boston on Thursday, which left the Leafs 3-7 overall in shootouts this season. That's seven coveted points in a tight playoff race.

"Hindsight is wonderful," Quinn said yesterday in defending his choices. "But maybe we should've tried something different."

Sundin, a 487-goal scorer in the NHL, obviously is embarrassed by his record, but was diplomatic on the subject of being bumped from the rotation.

"That's fine, whatever, as long as we get the points," he said.

But who to pencil in? Perhaps Kyle Wellwood, one of their shiftiest players, but spooked early in the year when Quinn threatened to bench him for a fancy move he attempted on a breakaway.

Matt Stajan? He has four short-handed goals, mostly earned on breakaway acumen.

Or is it time for something really radical, such as 19-goal defenceman Bryan McCabe? Quinn said this week that McCabe and partner Tomas Kaberle were on deck Monday had the Leafs not lost to Buffalo and Martin Biron in the minimum three chances.

"I'll go out there if they want, but the forwards get paid the big bucks for that," McCabe said. "Obviously we haven't had success, but I think you have to stick with your big guns, such as Mats."

One of Sundin's shootout goals in the pre-season against Ottawa came from simply blasting it from the slot. But McCabe, who owns one of the hardest shots in the NHL, wonders if he could get full force behind a drive while coming in on goal so fast.

"I'd probably just dump it in and chase it down, my 'A' move," he said with a laugh.

"We give the freedom to our shooter to make up his mind as he goes in," Quinn said. "A lot of guys don't decide until the last second, watching to see if there are any holes. Some guys (such as Biron) flash five hole and he sucked two of our guys in, even though we had discussed earlier in that game that it's what he does best."


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