Kirill Kaprizov keeps finding ways to keep the fans around until the last minute of every game. This past weekend, he scored two dazzling shootout goals and tied a franchise record point streak with points in 12 straight games. He also has goals in six consecutive games. Kirill is definitely a thrill, and this year he is 4-for-4 in shootout attempts. The 25-year-old winger is becoming the new Mr. Reliable in the shootout, and his moves will make your jaw drop.
The Wild have a 4-1 record in the shootout this year, and Kaprizov has scored in all four shootout wins. He just makes it look so easy. Former captain Mikko Koivu used to be Minnesota’s old Mr. Reliable in the shootout. Kaprizov has only been in less than 15 shootouts in his career, but it’s safe to say that he has taken over the title of the Wild’s King of the Shootout.
Koivu had his patented backhand move. He often relied on that move, and goalies never figured it out. Even when they could see it coming, Koivu went backhand top shelf so many times. The move is simple enough. Skate in with speed, then come in with a wide stance, forehand, backhand, and score. Koivu was always deceptive enough to keep the goalies guessing. Even though he’s retired, he is 10th overall in shootout goals with 42 and is ranked seventh with 18 game-deciding shootout goals.
Wild fans are used to seeing some silky shootout snipes, and it wasn’t clear who was going to be the go-to guy in the shootouts after Koivu retired. Then Kaprizov stormed into the league. Dean Evason has consistently placed Kaprizov, Mats Zuccarello, and Freddy Gaudreau in the shootout lineup card this year. But Kaprizov is the only player to score in all of them.
For his career, Kaprizov has scored six times in 11 chances, good for 54.5 percent. His first career shootout attempt came against the San Jose Sharks in March of 2021. He went with a backhand move but missed.
In his second season with the Wild, Kaprizov had four more missed attempts in shootouts. He ended up scoring two, though. One was a backhand miss against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Another was at home against the Buffalo Sabres, where he took a forehand shot and hit iron. In another shootout against the Colorado Avalanche, he went with a forehand chip shot and was met with Pavel Francouz’s glove save. He had another backhand five-hole miss against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
In Kaprizov’s four missed shots last season, he was the third shooter and often the last chance to extend the shootout. However, in the shots he put away, he was also third, so there’s no telling if that really means anything. He may feel more pressure in the third spot, and maybe more comfortable in the second spot. At least, he’s certainly thrived as the second shooter in his four successful attempts this year. In each spot in his career, he’s 0-for-1 as the first shooter, 4-for-4 as the second shooter, and 2-for-6 as the third or last shooter.
The second spot clearly seems to be working for Kaprizov. The Wild have three players who Evason relies on for shootouts. It often goes Zuccarello first, Kaprizov second, then Gaudreau third. A team’s success in the shootout is often variable because everything is so unpredictable. Not much strategy goes into shootouts because it’s such a high-variance event. Still, it’s important for them to have players to rely on.
Kaprizov has used three different moves in his six shootout goals. Last season, he converted simple chips over the goaltender’s shoulder for both goals. At the time, it looked like his go-to move. He’s got silky smooth hands and makes it look so easy.
But in his first two shootout goals this year, he decided to switch it up and go for backhanders. Goalies often have a tough time reading backhanded shots, and Koivu took advantage of that. However, Kaprizov has attempted a backhand shootout move five times, scoring twice.
For the two shootouts this past weekend, Kaprizov went back to the forehand shot. He put a little more zip on the chip shot and made it look effortless. His shootout goal against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday was beautiful. He did a little swivel move and fooled goalie John Gibson. Like all of his goals, Kaprizov looked like he could’ve done it minutes after rolling out of bed.
He made a similar move against Dallas Stars goalie Scott Wedgewood but kept it more simple.
What’s working for Kaprizov in the shootout this season? Being the second shooter, and his bag of tricks that includes his signature chip shot and the occasional backhander to keep the goalies guessing.
There’s no doubt Kaprizov has more moves up his sleeve, but what he’s doing this season is working well enough for him. Kaprizov’s moves are tough to read, and he’s got such silky hands that he’s almost certain to score in a shootout. Not to say that he’s going to score every time – like every hockey player, they sometimes miss the net or hit the iron. No one is perfect in the shootout, but Kaprizov always makes it entertaining and gives the Wild a good chance to win whenever that extra point is on the line.