(c) Geoff Brookes
I will ask the unthinkable question – is Laine’s shot getting better?
Throughout the course of the past two years, we’ve been thrilled to watch
this “best in world” shooter. We’ve had jaw dropping moments as he unleashes
a shocking rifle dart to the net, stunning the opposing goalie. The
netminder’s reaction is almost always too late, like an older slugger trying
to anticipate a young fire-baller’s fastball. The goalie’s best hope is that
the shot hits him (it almost never does), or that it goes wide of the net
(by a fraction of an inch).
But since the new year, Laine’s shot seems to have improved. The velocity
seems more extreme. The release seems to allow Laine to change his target at
the last nano-second.
As others have said, it’s like a cheat code in a video game.
Both Lundqvist and Price had compliments after being beaten on shots by
Laine. Lundqvist said that Laine looked like he was going to pick one
corner, then lazered it to the other top corner, making Lundqvist look
off-balance for the shot. Carey Price said that he was just getting his feet
square to the shot, when he realized the puck was already past him.
After game 2 of the playoffs, my Dad, my brother Derek and I met at Boston
Pizza. I had been watching on the big screen outside, then on the TV screen
inside when Laine scored. They had been watching from our seats at the
attacking zone blue line.
I said, “Wasn’t that an incredible shot by Laine!” I waited for an
enthusiastic response. Deadpan, Derek said, “Well, to tell you the truth, I
really couldn’t see it. I saw him wind-up, and then it’s like the puck
disappeared.” I showed him the replay on my wide-screen phone. He grinned
and laughed. “Yeah, it’s like something from a science fiction movie.”
After Laine’s hat trick against the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist, I watched a
post-game video from the Rangers broadcast. They were trying to analyze what
had just happened (Laine had the only 3 goals of that game). They
interviewed Lundqvist after that game, and King Henry had some very honest
respect for Laine’s shot.
The broadcasters’ slow motion replay seemed to reveal that there was a
double impact on the release from Laine’s hyper-flexible composite stick –
once just before the bottom of the extend stick blade motion, and then again
just after the bottom, as the stick blade flicked through the whipping
motion. The New York broadcasters speculated that perhaps Laine was able to
make a split-nano-second decision as to the ultimate shot direction. If
nothing else, Laine’s choice of shot location was well camouflaged, so that
Lundqvist was essentially guessing at the ultimate target.
Either way, you can’t stop it if you can’t react quickly enough. With
Laine’s goal last night, it seemed like Dubnyk barely moved, if at all.
Laine seemed to “get all of it” with the goal-scoring shot in game 2,
compared to the goal in game 1, where Dubnyk might have got a piece of the
shot before it went past him.
No article on Laine can avoid mentioning that the Jets are definitely not
completely reliant on Laine for their goal production. On the contrary, The
Jets have been playing as well as they have all season, especially in game
2, coming at the Wild in waves of attacks, controlling the puck and
delivering punishing checks. Laine himself continues to improve his play
without the puck, controlling board battles, evading opponents, making good
defensive reads and plays, and delivering hits.
But having that lethal shot is like having a secret weapon in a military
battle. With a little help from his playmaking compadres, Laine finds the
open spaces, and readies the cannon. If it were a videogame, a serious voice
would declare in the background, “Laine deployed!”
Seriously, the threat of that shot also opens up different spaces for his
team-mates. With the Jets’ standard first-line power-play set-up, Wheeler
can also look for Scheifele in the high slot, or Byfuglien at the point.
Wheeler can also reload by feeding the puck to Stastny below the goal-line,
who can either work a give-and-go with Wheeler, a reload pass to Wheeler, or
set-up Scheifele in the low slot, giving the power-play an opportunity to
shift into new spaces. Scheifele’s power play goal in game 1 is a clear
illustration of how Laine draws away opposing defenders like a powerful
And Laine keeps getting better, every game.
I didn’t imagine that this could still keep getting better!