(UPDATE: The Red Wings Shootout Book has been officially closed on Jiri Hudler. He’s gone to Calgary, never to take a half-hearted wrist shot in a Red Wings uniform ever again.)
Today’s subject: the enigmatic Jiri Hudler. He wasn’t a star, but he left Detroit to play in the KHL because he thought he was. He came back to the NHL. The Red Wings didn’t really need him, but took him anyway. He was supposed to provide some offensive pop, but in the most strictly offensive part of the game, he became one of the worst on the team. Yet, Mike Babcock kept sending him out as one of his three shooters. Sandwiched between Datsyuk and Bertuzzi, Hudler had a good place home. His misses allowed opposing teams to get back in it before Bertuzzi started roofing pucks on their ass.
The Basics: Hudler was 11-for-36 in shootouts.
Goals: 10/3/07 vs. (Ilya Bryzgalov), 11/18/07 @ Columbus (Pascal Leclaire), 12/17/07 vs. Washington (Olaf Kolzig), 1/10/08 vs. Minnesota (Josh Harding), 12/13/08 @ Phoenix (Ilya Bryzgalov), 2/2/09 vs. St. Louis (Chris Mason), 4/9/09 vs. Nashville (Pekka Rinne), 1/8/11 @ Vancouver (Roberto Luongo), 2/26/11 @ Buffalo (Ryan Miller), 1/17/12 @ Dallas (Richard Bachman), 2/2/12 @ Vancouver (Roberto Luongo), 4/1/12 vs. Florida (Scott Clemmensen)
Misses: 11/18/06 @ Edmonton (Dwayne Roloson), 3/6/07 vs. Nashville (Tomas Vokoun), 4/5/07 @ Chicago (Nikolai Khabibulin), 10/6/07 @ Chicago (Nikolai Khabibulin), 12/13/07 vs. Edmonton (Dwayne Roloson), 1/17/08 vs. Vancouver (Roberto Luongo), 2/26/08 @ Edmonton (Mathieu Garon), 10/25/08 @ Chicago (Nikolai Khabibulin), 12/27/08 @ Colorado (Peter Budaj), 2/15/09 vs. Colorado (Andrew Raycroft), 3/12/09 vs. Calgary (Miikka Kiprusoff), 10/12/10 vs. Colorado (Peter Budaj), 1/7/11 @ Calgary (Miika Kiprusoff), 1/14/11 @ Columbus (Steve Mason), 2/20/11 @ Minnesota (Niklas Backstrom), 3/5/11 @ Phoenix (Ilya Bryzgalov), 11/25/11 @Boston (Tuukka Rask), 1/12/12 @ Phoenix (Mike Smith), 1/19/12 @ Phoenix (Mike Smith), 1/21/12 vs. Columbus (Curtis Sanford), 2/4/12 @ Edmonton (Devan Dubnyk), 2/10/12 vs. Anaheim (Jonas Hiller), 2/23/12 vs. Vancouver (Roberto Luongo), 4/1/12 @ St. Louis (Brian Elliot), 4/7/12 vs. Chicago (Corey Crawford)
The Strategy: Hudler had his unpredictable bits, going straight on, going out wide, deking, but one tendency that rose above everything else: He loved to shoot.
That may explain his lack of success. Just about every goalie outside of Roberto Luongo had no trouble handling Hudler’s shots, mostly to glove side. (Interestingly enough, two goals against Luongo came from him shooting to the left side.)
The strange thing is he didn’t use to be this way. Early in his career he would go with a hard fake shot and then roof it with the backhand, mixing in a nice wrist shot only when the time felt right.
At some point he decided to start shooting and dekes became accidental. Take the famous Zetterberg/Forsberg/Entire-country-of-Sweden move he pulled off against Dallas. Watch the replay. After missing the puck on a stickhandle, Hudler recognized Bachman slid a little too far over so he decided to put it out wide.
As the years wend on, the most consistent Hudler move was a couple of stick handles and a half-hearted fake shot before he pulled it in and fired a wrist shot. Judging by his chart, that shot is probably went to the right side, at a level right about where the goalie’s chest would be when he butterflies. (You know, generally where the goalie takes up the most space.)
This was your typical Jiri Hudler shootout attempt:
It didn’t go well.
He switched it up from time-to-time. He went backhand in a couple attempts. He ripped a slapshot. Those didn’t go well either.
The Takeaway: Hudler’s shot wasn’t good enough to command respect from goaltenders. Neither were his moves. That left the goalie strictly playing the percentages. The percentages are loud-mouths. They told anybody who listened that Hudler was a shooter. So goalies challenged, coming out to take away the angles and didn’t worry about anything else.
You saw this with Bachman, who was way out on the white ice even as Hudler came down to the hashmarks. Bachman committed to the shot as soon as Hudler tried to pull the puck to the forehand. By the time Hudler recovered from the mishandle Bachman was already sliding past his net.
If Hudler went back to non-accidental dekeing, he could have been effective. At least until goalies figured it out. Instead he decided to run to Calgary never to be heard from again. That’s probably a win for the Red Wings.
Shootout Deadliness: 1 “OHHH BA-BY” out of 5