Football

Nathan MacKinnon Has an Arsenal of Tricks to Power His Lethal Shot

+ADw-p class+AD0AIg-subtitle+ACIAPg-From his stickhandling to his velocity to his precision, Nathan MacKinnon is always looking for ways to perfect his shot and stay unpredictable.+ADw-/p+AD4APAAh— tml-version+AD0AIg-2+ACI –+AD4APA-figure+AD4APA-img src+AD0AIg-https://www.si.com/.image/c+AF8-fit+ACU-2Ccs+AF8-srgb+ACU-2Cfl+AF8-progressive+ACU-2Cq+AF8-auto:good+ACU-2Cw+AF8-620/MTY5NzMxOTcxMDI1NDc4ODE3/avalanche-nathan-mackinnon-shot.jpg+ACI height+AD0AIg-349+ACI width+AD0AIg-620+ACIAPgA8-/figure+AD4APA-p+AD4-Long before he blessed Colorado Avalanche fans and cursed opposing goalies with his almighty scoring touch, Nathan MacKinnon was just another kid obsessed with working on his shot. +IBw-I started really young, probably 6 or 7,+IB0 the 24-year-old winger says. +IBw-A ton of pucks. Every day.+IB0 +ADw-/p+AD4APA-p+AD4-At first he would practice in the garage of the family+IBk-s Halifax, Nova Scotia home with his father, Graham, but when that space became too cramped their sessions relocated to the driveway. This worked until the garage door was dented into a Mars terrain map thanks to all the wayward rubber, so one of his cousins, a carpenter, laid down some wood, plexiglass, and protective netting in the backyard, where Graham would string milk jugs to the goalposts and Nate would, as he puts it today, +IBw-try to smash them. As a kid they would stay on, because my shot wasn+IBk-t strong enough. As I got older, they wouldn+IBk-t last very long. Zip ties would break up too.+IB0APA-/p+AD4APA-p+AD4-Such is the cost of greatness, evidently, extra bucks spent on hardware and dairy. But who can argue with results? Last season, MacKinnon +ADw-a href+AD0AIg-https://www.nhl.com/player/nathan-mackinnon-8477492+ACIAPg-topped 40 goals for the first time+ADw-/a+AD4 and led the NHL with 365 total shots, most in a full decade by any player +ADw-a href+AD0AIg-https://www.hockey-reference.com/play-index/psl+AF8-finder.cgi?request+AD0-1+ACY-amp+ADs-match+AD0-single+ACY-amp+ADs-year+AF8-min+AD0-2001+ACY-amp+ADs-year+AF8-max+AD0-2020+ACY-amp+ADs-season+AF8-start+AD0-1+ACY-amp+ADs-season+AF8-end+AD0–1+ACY-amp+ADs-rookie+AD0-N+ACY-amp+ADs-age+AF8-min+AD0-0+ACY-amp+ADs-age+AF8-max+AD0-99+ACY-amp+ADs-pos+AD0-S+ACY-amp+ADs-is+AF8-playoffs+AD0-N+ACY-amp+ADs-c1stat+AD0-shots+ACY-amp+ADs-c1comp+AD0-gt+ACY-amp+ADs-c1val+AD0-360+ACY-amp+ADs-threshhold+AD0-5+ACY-amp+ADs-order+AF8-by+AD0-year+AF8-id+ACIAPg-not named Alex Ovechkin+ADw-/a+AD4. This season, he has marshalled a robust Hart Trophy case with the league+IBk-s fourth-most points (66), fourth-most goals (27) and second-most shots (210) through Monday. Unlike the Great 8, though, the Great Nate doesn+IBk-t rely on power alone to produce. +IBw-They+IBk-re similar, the body language in how they shoot,+IB0 says Avalanche goalie Philipp Grubauer, who previously spent four-plus seasons with Ovechkin in Washington. +IBw-But Ovi just uses his raw force. Nate has precision.+IB0APA-/p+AD4APA-p+AD4-Nate has a lot of things. A diverse arsenal, for starters+ADs +ADw-a href+AD0AIg-http://www.nhl.com/stats/skaters?report+AD0-shottype+ACY-amp+ADs-reportType+AD0-season+ACY-amp+ADs-seasonFrom+AD0-20192020+ACY-amp+ADs-seasonTo+AD0-20192020+ACY-amp+ADs-gameType+AD0-2+ACY-amp+ADs-filter+AD0-shotsOnNetBackhand,gte,20+ACY-amp+ADs-filter+AD0-shotsOnNetSlap,gte,20+ACY-amp+ADs-filter+AD0-shotsOnNetSnap,gte,20+ACY-amp+ADs-filter+AD0-shotsOnNetWrist,gte,20+ACY-amp+ADs-sort+AD0-shots+ACY-amp+ADs-page+AD0-0+ACY-amp+ADs-pageSize+AD0-50+ACIAPg-according to NHL.com+ADw-/a+AD4, he is the only skater with 20 or more slap, snap, wrist and backhanded shots on goal in +IBg-19+IBM-20. +IBw-Woah, didn+IBk-t know that,+IB0 MacKinnon says. +IBw-I don’t think it+IBk-s just +IBg-down the wing and rip it+IBk for me. I think I+IBk-m a little more dynamic than that. I have different tools.+IB0 Like the one-timers that he cranks from the left faceoff circle on Colorado+IBk-s top power-play unit with increasing regularity. Or the trio of rockets launched against Calgary in last spring+IBk-s first-round upset, which inspired +ADw-a href+AD0AIg-https://deadspin.com/nathan-mackinnons-wrist-is-trying-to-kill-the-flames-al-1834069169+ACIAPg-this Deadspin (R.I.P.) headline+ADw-/a+AD4: Nathan MacKinnon’s Wrist Is Trying To Kill The Flames All By Itself. +ADw-/p+AD4APA-p+AD4-Or what teammate Tyson Jost refers to as +IBw-that patented move of his,+IB0 a sick +ADw-a href+AD0AIg-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v+AD0-Bq+AF8-wRSWbBYo+ACY-amp+ADs-feature+AD0-emb+AF8-logo+ACIAPg-offspeed forehander+ADw-/a+AD4 lofted over the goalie+IBk-s glove-side shoulder. +IBw-Don+IBk-t want to tell him this to boost his ego,+IB0 Jost says, +IBw-but when I was younger, before I was drafted, I+IBk-d watch that move on YouTube and then go out and practice it on the ice.+IB0APA-/p+AD4APA-p+AD4-What really sets MacKinnon apart, though, occurs before the puck ever zooms off his 95-flex CCM blade. Aside from perhaps Connor McDavid, no one hypnotizes opponents with such rapid-fire stickhandling, while still skating at top speed. +IBw-Because he+IBk-s so fast and he shifts his body so extremely well, it makes it really hard for us,+IB0 Grubauer says, evidently speaking for the entire goalie community. +IBw-He doesn+IBk-t just freeze the goalie. He freezes the defenseman.+IB0 +ADw-/p+AD4APA-p+AD4-Thanks to the strength of his 6+IBk-0+IB0, 200-pound frame+IBQ-and, surely, all those hours smashing milk jugs+IBQ-MacKinnon also possesses an uncanny knack for firing +ADw-em+AD4-mid+ADw-/em+AD4–stickhandle. +IBw-His release, it+IBk-s unbelievable how quick it comes off,+IB0 winger Andre Burakovsky says. This way, rather than drag the puck back into a shooting position and reveal his intentions, MacKinnon can keep fiddling and keep his options open. +IBw-There+IBk-s a certain amount of deception, where you don+IBk-t know if he+IBk-s going to skate with it or if he+IBk-s going to shoot it,+IB0 Avs coach Jared Bednar says. +IBw-Especially now when he+IBk-s kind of feeling it and things are going his way, it+IBk-s tough to read what he+IBk-s going to do on the attack.+IB0APA-/p+AD4APA-p+AD4-This is MacKinnon at his most eye-popping, bulldozing down the ice while leading an Avalanche odd-man rush, the precise reason why fans recently voted him as the Central Division captain for this month+IBk-s NHL All-Star Game. But he has also become an effective scorer in subtler ways. Three of his goals this season, for instance, have come on seeing-eye wristers from 50-plus feet, each fluttered through layers of traffic. +IBw-I just try to get them through, because it gives my teammates a better chance of tipping them,+ACI he says. +IBw-Doesn+IBk-t have to be hard from out there.+IB0 +ADw-/p+AD4APA-p+AD4-If that wasn+IBk-t scary enough, though, MacKinnon has improved at the other end of the velocity spectrum too. +IBw-I had such a bad one-timer my first couple years,+IB0 he says. +IBw-Me and +AFs-former Avs defenseman+AF0 Tyson Barrie would work on it and I could barely lift the puck. Now I feel like it+IBk-s a tool that I can use in-game. Still need to shoot them every day, or a couple times a week, to make sure it+IBk-s still sharp, or I kind of lose it.+IB0 Indeed, MacKinnon is self-aware enough to admit when something needs work. +IBw-My backhand is not great now,+IB0 he says. +IBw-It+IBk-s kind of a muffin.+IB0APA-/p+AD4APA-p+AD4-Everything else has been humming along at an MVP-caliber clip. Through 45 games, he was on pace to sniff 50 goals and surpass 120 points, +ADw-a href+AD0AIg-https://www.hockey-reference.com/play-index/psl+AF8-finder.cgi?request+AD0-1+ACY-amp+ADs-match+AD0-single+ACY-amp+ADs-season+AF8-start+AD0-1+ACY-amp+ADs-season+AF8-end+AD0–1+ACY-amp+ADs-rookie+AD0-N+ACY-amp+ADs-age+AF8-min+AD0-0+ACY-amp+ADs-age+AF8-max+AD0-99+ACY-amp+ADs-pos+AD0-S+ACY-amp+ADs-is+AF8-playoffs+AD0-N+ACY-amp+ADs-c1stat+AD0-goals+ACY-amp+ADs-c1comp+AD0-gt+ACY-amp+ADs-c1val+AD0-50+ACY-amp+ADs-c2stat+AD0-points+ACY-amp+ADs-c2comp+AD0-gt+ACY-amp+ADs-c2val+AD0-120+ACY-amp+ADs-threshhold+AD0-5+ACY-amp+ADs-order+AF8-by+AD0-year+AF8-id+ACIAPg-a combo last reached by Jaromir Jagr in +IBg-05+IBM-06+ADw-/a+AD4. Asked about this spike in production+IBQ-as well as his current career-high 4.67 shots per game+IBQ-after a recent morning skate, MacKinnon wipes some sweat from his forehead and shrugs. +IBw-I don+IBk-t know, I+IBk-m just being aggressive,+IB0 he says. +IBw-When I have an aggressive mentality, I seem to shoot a lot of pucks. I think when you shoot and get it back, that’s when you really get chances. Usually it doesn+IBk-t come off the first shot. Usually you+IBk-ve got to get it back and start breaking the defense down when they can+IBk-t reset. That+IBk-s what I+IBk-m focused on.+IB0APA-/p+AD4APA-p+AD4-As an example, MacKinnon is reminded of a first-period sequence from a home game against divisional rival Nashville on Nov. 7. Enjoying a two-man advantage, the Avalanche power play swung the puck to MacKinnon, who uncorked a one-timer from the left faceoff circle that pinged off the goalpost. Seconds later, as the puck came back around, MacKinnon found himself with possession in a similar spot. This time, he stickhandled toward the slot, waited for bodies to crowd in front of goalie Pekka Rinne, and unleashed a wrister that gave Colorado a 2+IBM-1 lead.+ADw-/p+AD4APA-p+AD4gHA-Yeah, exactly like that,+IB0 MacKinnon says. +IBw-Don’t want to get too predictable, so switching it up.+IB0APA-/p+AD4-

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