Sitting on a boat with Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman during the summer, Vancouver Canucks star Elias Pettersson suggested that he might take more of a shot-first mentality into 2023-24.
"I gotta be a little more selfish and shoot sometimes," he said. "I've always been a pass-first minor player. I hear a lot that I need to shoot more. So I've started listening to some people."
Pettersson appeared to take those people's advice in the Canucks season opener with a five-shot performance that included his first goal of the season.
His output in the next seven games suggested he was back to his pass-happy ways, though, managing a single goal on 10 shots while racking up eight assists.
It would be tough to characterize a stretch like that as a slump given the sturdy point total, but a little more balance would be welcome.
Pettersson has one of the best shots in the NHL, with a max shot speed (97.67 mph) that only two forwards in the league (Tage Thompson and Owen Tippett) have topped in 2023-24. Vancouver's offense is more dangerous when the 24-year-old, who's scored 71 goals over the last two seasons, is letting the puck fly. During his 102-point outburst in 2022-23, the fewest shots he managed in any seven-game span was 15.
Luckily for the Canucks, on Tuesday the Swede appeared to be looking for his shot once again. Less than a minute into the second period, he wove through the high slot and let a wrister rip that beat Kevin Lankinen.
That's one way to respond after the break. 💪 pic.twitter.com/OAz30m3hyj
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) November 1, 2023
Later in the period, the puck found his stick on the power play with time to spare. Pettersson contemplated a number of passing options and ultimately decided his team's best chance of converting with the man advantage would be for him to fire from the right circle.
He was right.
It was the type of look Pettersson could've justified passing up, but it found the twine with the help of a Brock Boeser screen.
Petterson capped his hat trick off with an empty netter to secure a 5-2 win for the Canucks and by the end of the night he had five shots on his ledger.
That's not a colossal total, but it's as many as he'd managed in his previous four games combined — despite the fact Vancouver outshot its opponents 26-22 when he was on the ice in all situations during that span.
Whether one game is indicative of a philosophical shift isn't clear, but considering Petterson's shot is one of the best weapons the Canucks offense has at its disposal, it has to be considered a positive sign for Vancouver.
In many cases, there's an unfair double standard when it comes to evaluating stars where guys who get labeled as 'playmakers' are often encouraged to shoot more and accused of passivity or not getting too cute.
Meanwhile, scorers tend to get lionized for putting the puck on net, even if there's a better play out there. Shooting is never the worst-case possible play — and when scorers go into slumps despite solid shot totals that is more likely to be attributed to poor shooting luck than firing on low-percentage looks.
While it's easy to fall into that trap when putting Pettersson's game under the microscope, the difference with him is that he's truly an elite shooter. MoneyPuck.com's 'Shooting Talent Above Average' metric suggests he's 30.2% better than the average. Only Leon Draisaitl has a better number (32.1%).
There's some wiggle room on debating the precision of that number, but between it and Petterson's shot velocity, it's clear that there's a significant opportunity cost whenever he opts to pass up an attempt on net.
On Tuesday he didn't do that often, and the results spoke for themselves.