VANCOUVER - Mr. Big Shot is finally going to get his shot.
And defenceman Jason Garrison promises he won’t be shy about using it.
Garrison knows exactly what his job will be on the Vancouver Canucks’ first-unit power play this season: to use that howitzer he has as a slap shot and fire the puck at the net.
“I know why I’m out there, I think they know why I’m out there,” Garrison says.
The fact Garrison was not a regular on the Canuck power play last season remains one of life’s mysteries, particularly when you consider that Vancouver struggled mightily with the man advantage. The Canucks were 22nd in the league last season on the power play.
Garrison’s teammates think his shot will be a welcome addition to the power play this season.
“I think you saw out there today, when he shoots the puck it’s either hitting the net and going in or it’s going to break someone’s foot or hurt Kes (Ryan Kesler) in front,” Vancouver captain Henrik Sedin said after Tuesday’s practice at Rogers Arena.
“His mindset has to be shot. He has got to know he is the guy. if our power play is going to be successful he is going to need to shoot it.”
Garrison and fellow defenceman Alex Edler will work the points on the first-unit power play, with Daniel and Henrik Sedin and Kesler up front.
Kesler should get danger pay. It’s his job to try and create a little chaos in front of the opposition net and that could expose him to some friendly fire courtesy of Garrison’s slapper.
“He keeps it low, I’m not worried about that,” Kesler said Tuesday. “There was one time in practice where he got it up around my chops, but usually if I see it I can react to it.
“He has control of his shot, that’s the big thing. He knows where it’s going and my job is just to take the goalie’s eyes away.”
Garrison’s shot rivals that of a recently departed Canuck defenceman.
“They have to worry about that shot, it’s not unlike Sami Salo’s shot,” Kesler said. “Teams were worried about that and Garry has the same thing. He’s a bomber back there and he’s not afraid to shoot.”
Garrison said his heavy shot came naturally to him, but he didn’t really realize how good it was until he was well into his teens. He was a forward until he was 17, when a coach with the Richmond Junior B team he was playing on decided his shot belonged on the point.
That began his career as a defenceman.
“I kind of knew I had it but I didn’t know it was as big of an asset as it has turned out to be until a coach of mine was kind of like, ‘you’ve got a big shot, let’s put you on the back end,’” he said.
Garrison has one of those shots that almost makes you cringe when he fires it and an opposition player tries to get in front of it and block it. Garrison says he’s can’t worry about potentially injuring another player.
“I definitely do not intentionally try to hurt anybody,” Garrison said. “For me, it’s just getting it to the net. The game is all about blocking shots and all the power to everybody that blocks shots, but I am alway trying to hit the back of the net and not hit anybody. Unfortunately, sometimes that happens.”
Garrison, of course, often blocks shots at the other end of the ice. He’s not sure how anxious he’d be to drop in front of one of his.
“I don’t know how I’d feel about that,” Garrison said with a smile. “ I feel for my teammates on practice days when we are practising the power play. Your one goal is to score goals and you can’t really think too much beyond that.”
Goalie Roberto Luongo has a better idea than most just how hard Garrison’s shot is.
“It’s one that can hurt other teams,” Luongo said. “Fortunately in practice he doesn’t always put all of his force into it, but we have definitely seen what he can do in games. It’s lethal, it’s just an extra weapon that we have out there to complement all the other guys out there.”
Garrison’s heavy shot is complemented by the fact that he also has a quick release. He does not waste any time getting it off.
“The key for me is just moving around and finding that lane to the net,” he said. “And guys are good nowadays, it’s not always going to be there. Sometimes you may be able to force it through, it might squeak by, but sometimes it’s going to get blocked. It’s definitely about releasing it quickly. You gain a little bit of space by shooting the puck and it creates maybe some havoc down low. No matter what, it can get defensive players running around a little bit.”
And sometimes down on the ice writhing in pain.
ICE CHIPS: The second unit power play on Tuesday consisted of Kevin Bieksa, Dan Hamhuis, Alex Burrows and Chris Higgins, with Jannik Hansen and David Booth alternating on right wing.
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