CALGARY – Steven Stamkos is the most prolific goal scorer in the NHL today. He has 185 goals over the last four seasons (294 games). Nobody has scored more during that stretch. In fact, it's not even close as Alexander Ovechkin is second with 152 goals.
But there is one situation in which the Tampa Bay Lightning forward has failed to put the puck in the net on a regular basis: the shootout. Stamkos has converted on just five of 27 career chances (18.5%).
"It's something that, a lot of the time, is a mental thing," Stamkos explained. "When things don't go your way, you have negative thoughts heading into your next shot so it's definitely something I'm aware of and would love to obviously get better at."
Stamkos missed on both his attempts last season and has found the back of the net just once in his last 13 attempts overall.
"You skate toward the net in a game and there's a guy chasing you and you don't think about it and you score and you say, 'Why can't I do that in a shootout?' Well, in a shootout everyone's eyes are on you. The game's on the line. You have more time to think. Almost too much time to think so for me it's more of a mental thing and hopefully being a little more successful early on in the season will allow me to get some confidence."
In the regular season, a missed shootout attempt may lead to a missed bonus point in this era of three-point games. But at the Olympics, a missed shootout attempt may lead to elimination. Dominik Hasek, for example, stopped all five Canadian shooters during the 1998 Olympic semi-finals in Nagano, allowing the Czech Republic to advance on the strength of Robert Reichel's goal.
That happened before the NHL implemented extra shots as a tie-breaking method. Now the Canadian staff will have a fairly good idea of who is up to the job should a shootout be required. And head coach Mike Babcock will have a number of solid options.
Among the 47 players invited to this week's orientation camp, here are the top shootout performers:
Jonathan Toews - 49% (27/55)
Sidney Crosby - 43% (23/54)
James Neal - 41% (14/34)
Chris Kunitz - 41% (13/32)
Claude Giroux - 41% (12/29)
Rick Nash - 39% (29/74)
Jordan Eberle - 39% (9/23)
Ryan Getzlaf - 38% (21/55)
Andrew Ladd - 38% (6/16)
Logan Couture - 37% (7/19)
Stamkos ranks 20th on the list and based on that, Babcock may choose to leave him out of any shootout.
NHL on TSN analysts Dave Reid and Mike Johnson debated who should get the call for Canada in an Olympic shootout during a recent episode of That's Hockey. Reid included Stamkos on his list despite his poor track record arguing that you simply can't leave the NHL's top goal scorer on the bench in that situation.
Wayne Gretzky, of course, was left off the shootout roster in Nagano, which led to plenty of questions back home.
So if Babcock did call on him, would Stamkos be eager for the chance?
"Yeah, everyone wants to be a hero," he said. "There's obviously a lot of pressure, but you have to kind of run with it and hopefully you don't have to be put in that situation, because you've won the game before that, but it's definitely something everyone would want to do."
The 23-year-old doesn't see an easy fix when it comes to this mental block.
"It's just something you have to overcome so it obviously doesn't happen overnight."