EDMONTON – It’s a string of perfection that grows more remarkable with each win.
Edmonton Oilers goalie Mathieu Garon is 10-0 in shootouts this season. Put him in a shootout and it’s victory Garon-teed. “When you start the year and think about shootouts, you want to get the extra points and you want to win more than you lose,” Garon said. “Being 10-0 is getting crazy.”
Garon’s mastery in shootouts hit double digits when the Oilers edged the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 Sunday. Garon tied an NHL record with his 10th shootout win. He’s stopped 30 of 32 attempts.
The 30-year-old is at a loss to explain why he’s so good in shootouts why his saves-percentage, .938, is so much better than anybody else. Among goaltenders who have faced at least 20 shots, teammate Dwayne Roloson is next at .800. After that, it’s Jose Theodore of Colorado at .792 and Dany Sabourin of Pittsburgh at .769. It’s not even close.
“Anything over .700 is good,” Garon said. “It’s a breakaway. You have to get lucky, too. I’ve had guys miss the net or hit the post. Stopping 30 out of 32 looks good, but I’ve had four or five that could’ve gone in.”
So, Garon’s good and lucky. And there’s a kicker.
“No. Not at all,” laughs Garon, asked if he puts in any extra time working on his shootout technique. “I’m not good in practice.”
“For some reason, I don’t know if it’s because I’m not as focused, it seems guys can always score on me (in practice).”
Garon’s 10 wins ties the mark established by Ryan Miller of Buffalo (10-4) and Martin Brodeur of New Jersey (10-6) in 2006-07. This season, Brodeur is 4-3 with a .731 saves percentage and Miller is 2-6 with a .524.
“The numbers are scary right now,” coach Craig MacTavish said. “Normally, we can get a goal out of three shots and that’s all it takes. He’s got lots of confidence and he’s in the heads of the shooters, obviously.”
The Oilers, also bolstered by Roloson’s 4-3 record, are 14-3 in shootouts – the most wins by a team since the format was instituted in 2005-06.
“It’s just amazing. I think we should play for the shootouts, personally,” smiled Marty Reasoner. “That’s when we know we’re going to get the win.
“We should just sit back in overtime and play like a trap or something . . . (Garon) just has that confidence that when he’s in the shootout, he’s not going to be beaten.”
There’s nothing revolutionary about how Garon approaches shootouts. As the shooter skates in, Garon glides 15-20 feet out of his crease. If the opponent thinks shot, the angle favours Garon.
“I’m just glad he’s on our side,” said Sam Gagner. “He’s been unbelievable for us. He’s got us a lot of points this year.
“Matty takes away so much of the angle by coming out so far, yet when you try to deke him, he’s already back in his net. He’s got those long legs. He gets post-to-post really well.”
Garon’s ability to back up should the shooter make a move to the forehand or backhand is what stands out. That and lower-body flexibility that makes grown men wince watching him stretch.
“It’s flexibility, the quickness of my feet,” Garon said. “It’s all about being patient, too.
“If you bite on the first move, you’re stuck. It’s about trying to make a good read and having them commit first.”
Counting Sunday, Garon has stopped 14 straight shots in shootouts since last giving up a goal – Dec. 15 to Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler. Just the law of averages suggests one or two should sneak across the line and that likewise, that eventually Garon will lose.
“I know it might happen,” he said. “There’s nothing I can do except stay focused. Maybe one night I’m going to give up two or three goals. It’s part of the game.”