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Zherdev gets straight talk // New York Daily News
MONTREAL - When it comes to shooting, at least Nikolai Zherdev's head is in the right place. His shots themselves are a different story.
It's not the Rangers' super-talented, but enigmatic winger is trigger shy - he's willing to shoot the puck - but he's already beginning to frazzle his new head coach with the frequency with which he misses the net.
Wayne Gretzky famously said that you don't score on 100% of the shots you don't take. The ratio is not a whole lot better on the shots that miss the net, and sometimes the results are quite a bit worse. John Tortorella - who has been reluctant to reveal what he talks about with certain players admitted yesterday that it's a subject he's broached with the 24-year-old Ukrainian.
"I look at Zherdev - and yes, I did talk to him today - if he hit the net on half his shots, he'd have a few more goals, at least the games I've coached him," Tortorella said before his Rangers faced the Canadiens last night. "He's such a dynamic player, but he shoots the puck wide quite a bit. It's not always about trying to pick a corner; it's about sometimes shooting to the middle of the net and maybe you'll miss and hit the top corner, and maybe there'll be a rebound for us. So with 'Z,' he gets himself open, he ends up with a lot of opportunities, but a lot of them end up wide and it's almost a breakout for the other team."
The issue was plainly evident in Sunday's win at the Garden over the Flyers. Zherdev did not score in the game, though he put three shots on goal. He also missed the net twice in the first period from prime scoring areas; after the second miss, he turned immediately back to the bench, his body shaking as he screamed something at himself that likely would be unprintable in Sovetsky Sport.
Zherdev - who played on a line with Scott Gomez and Sean Avery last night - has 19 goals this season on the 187 shots that he's put on net, a shooting percentage of 10.2. His career high for goals is 27, in 2005-06 with the Blue Jackets, who traded him to the Rangers over the summer. Meanwhile, his previous career high in plus-minus is last season's minus-9 for Columbus; entering last night's game, Zherdev's and the Rangers' 71st of the season, the winger was a plus-7.
FIT TO BE TIED: The Rangers entered play last night tied with Montreal in points for sixth place in the Eastern Conference playoff race. One aspect that complicates all teams' playoff hopes is three-point games - with the advent of the loser's point in overtime and then the shootout, any game that is tied after 60 minutes is guaranteed to award a total of three points, lousy luck for any of the playoff hopefuls not involved in the game.
It's a hockey purist's nightmare. So consider Tortorella a hockey purist.
"Three-point games? I hate 'em," the coach said. "I think you determine a winner. A winner and a loser. It could be a long conversation as to how you do that, but I'll leave that for another day."
And what about shooutouts?
"Shootouts? I've never liked it, never liked it," he said. "I think it's a team sport for 65 minutes and then it turns into an individual contest. But that's not for me to make the rules, it's for me to abide by them."
The Rangers are 9-5 in shootouts after starting the season 8-1. They have lost their only shootout under Tortorella, which came in the coach's debut on Feb. 25 in Toronto.