Shot Technique Makes Schultz Offensive Threat

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Jeff Schultz recently began using a half slap shot, which requires a smaller windup than a traditional slap shot yet launches the puck with significantly more velocity than a wrist shot.

That addition to his repertoire has produced stunning results.

Schultz, a 6-foot-6, 231-pound Washington Capitals defenseman in his first full NHL season, has scored four goals the past six games, including one in Monday night's 4-3 shootout loss to the NHL-leading Red Wings in Detroit. Last season, Schultz scored just two goals in 101 games split between Washington and the organization's minor league affiliate in Hershey, Pa.

Schultz's goal against the Red Wings was his fifth, tying him with Capitals forwards Nicklas Backstrom, Tomas Fleischmann and Chris Clark. It also moved the 21-year-old into a tie for 12th among NHL defensemen entering last night's games.

Schultz's scoring surge has come as a surprise, even to him. He never has been considered an offensive dynamo. In fact, his half slap shot isn't very hard -- but it's accurate, and he gets it off in a hurry. Schultz's five goals have come on just 13 shots. His .385 shooting percentage is tied for fifth in the league.

"It's been effective for me," Schultz said. "The last four goals I've scored have all been half slap shots."

There were times early this season when it seemed that Alex Ovechkin and Michael Nylander were the only players consistently contributing on offense. But the past six games have seen a change for Washington, which has netted 23 goals, scored by 12 players, and posted a 4-1-1 record. All 20 skaters who suited up for those games recorded at least one point, while Schultz's four goals during that span are matched only by Ovechkin.

"It's huge because it takes a lot of the pressure off guys like Ovechkin and Nylander and Semin," Schultz said of the importance of getting goals from multiple sources. "The other team is always keying on those guys."

"If the 'D' can chip in a few goals, that helps, too, because the forwards know they can pass the puck to the point and we'll get the shots through and there will be rebounds -- or the shots will go in."

Schultz's goal against the Red Wings put the Capitals ahead 2-1 late in the first period. He controlled a pass at the point from Matt Bradley and fired a half slap shot toward the net. En route, the puck ricocheted off Tomas Holmstrom's stick, then lofted over goaltender Dominik Hasek and into the net.

Schultz, who has had his share of struggles in his own end while learning a difficult job on the fly, also had a strong defensive performance against the Wings, building on Saturday's solid effort in Tampa.

Though the Capitals lost in Detroit, their ability to push the NHL's top team to the edge gave them a confidence boost and three of four possible points on the two-game road trip. They remained at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings but had moved within five points of eighth place entering last night's games.

"We look at the standings," said Schultz, who, along with his teammates, enjoyed a day off from practice yesterday. "There are only a few teams in that 40-point range, and there are so many in that 30-point range. We've moved closer. We're not quite there yet, but we're moving closer to where we want to be. We just need to keep doing what we've done the past few games."

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