How does Stamkos do it? Practice, practice, practice
NHL players talk about what makes Stamkos great
Stamkos' one-timer is one of the single greatest individual weapons in today's game, a virtually unstoppable blast coming off one of the fastest sticks since the days of Brendan Shanahan and Brett Hull.
Twenty-four of Stamkos' 51 goals last season were off one-timers, including 16 from the left side and 14 from inside the left circle. Twelve of those came on the power play.
Already this season he has 8 goals, including three off one-timers, the latest a textbook power-play blast from the left circle in Atlanta on Friday.
How did he develop the shot? Why is it so good? How come goalies can't stop it?
We went to the shooter, an analyst, a goalie and a former great for answers to these questions and insight into one of the top goal scorers in the NHL today.
The Shooter: Practice makes perfect
Stamkos told NHL.com that he started practicing his shot when he was 9 or 10 years old.
"I could skate with the best of them, but I couldn't shoot," he said. "I couldn't get the puck off the ice and I was always one of the smaller kids."
Stamkos' father, Chris, brought him to a shooting school twice a week. There he would learn the proper technique for shooting the puck while practicing in full gear on synthetic ice.
"It's like a golf swing or a tennis shot. You don't have to be the biggest guy to have the hardest shot," Stamkos said. "I realized at a young age that technique was the most important thing, so I shot 400 to 500 pucks every session and just got better and better."
Stamkos didn't deal with one-timers in those practice sessions. That developed after he saw his shot drastically improve.
"You just keep on it, shooting pucks in the summer, and before and after practices to this day I'm still practicing my one-timer," Stamkos said. "I think it's such a good shot in today's game with how good the goalies are. If you give them that extra split second by stopping the puck on your stick they're going to be there."
Stamkos wants to hit the shot in the middle of his blade. That's his sweet spot.
"The wrist shot and snap shot is more off the toe, but this is trying to hit it pretty square into the blade," he said. "The more torque you can get into the stick the better. You just try to get it as accurate as possible."
The pass is essential, but Stamkos' feet are quick enough that he can adjust when the puck isn't heading right to his blade.
"You want to be in an area where you can take that one step back or that one step forward in order to get as much velocity on the shot as possible," he said.
He finds an area on the ice, usually on the left wing half-wall, and he stealthily drifts into the circle as Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Simon Gagne and now Pavel Kubina (last year Kurtis Foster) work the right side on the Lightning power play. With so many weapons there, the defense can't just watch Stamkos.
"You can't just focus on one or two guys because the other guys are going to bury you," Stamkos said.
While the Lightning are moving the puck around, Stamkos said he's jumping in and out of seams "to create false information." He finds that eventually time gives way and "boom, it's open."
And in the net.
The Analyst: Natural gifts
The NHL Network's Craig Button, a former GM, told NHL.com that Stamkos reminds him of Brett Hull because "he would get over there and you might find some clips of him being on one knee with the whip in his stick."
Don Cherry brought up the same topic on "Coach's Corner" this past Saturday and CBC showed clips of Stamkos, Hull and others scoring on one-timers with one knee on the ice. (View the clip here at cbc.com)
Button said it doesn't matter where Stamkos shoots from because the quickness of his release allows him to score.
"It's so fast off his stick and so heavy, that even though the goalie knows where he has to get to, the shot literally beats the goalie," Button said. "That speaks to how quick he gets it off his stick, how heavy the shot is and how accurate, obviously."
Button compared Stamkos' shot to a baseball pitcher with an elite fastball.
"You know it's coming; the question is can you hit it?" he said. "The goalies know it's coming, but Stamkos gets the better of them."
He does because he has physical gifts that very few possess. Button said it has nothing to do with the equipment he uses -- the stick, the blade, nothing; Stamkos' one-timer is all about "his hand speed and his eye speed."
"Golfers that are great ball strikers, they're always consistent, coming through on the same way," he said. "I'm going to guess without doing the analysis, but if they broke it down on the physics, Stamkos' whole body is moving in unison and quickly he's getting his stick through. It's like getting your bat through the strike zone. Steve Stamkos, his strike zone is the cocking of the stick until the time he makes contact."
Button wonders why defenses, especially during a Tampa power play, don't just make it a 4-on-3 by having one skater shadow Stamkos the entire time. But, he also wonders if it would make a difference.
"He moves around, too," Button said. "He knows how to find and how to adjust to that spot. He's not stationary. When it's set up over on that right side, you have to be watching the puck, but Steven can be watching the puck and everybody around it."
The Goalie: He finds the hole
Stamkos scored on Devils goalie Martin Brodeur four times last season, with three of those coming directly off a one-timer. Brodeur told NHL.com the most dangerous thing about Stamkos is his shot accuracy, and how difficult he makes it is for a goalie who has to go from left to right, especially when that post-to-post move is from his stick side to his blocker side.
"He just hits the net. He's always accurate," Brodeur said. "Guys like Mike Bossy, who scored a lot on that side, they don't miss the net. It's an awkward way of moving (for a goalie) unless you read it really quick. You don't see as many guys on your left side there getting as many goals like that as those guys on your right side just for that reason.
"It's how quick you're able to get it off, the release and can you hit the net. I don't care if you have a good pass, but if you can't hit the net with it ..."
Brodeur said Stamkos is so accurate that he can beat a goalie below the blocker, which "for any goalie is a dead spot."
"It might hit your paddle once in a while, but it's tough, so he's in a great spot there to get it off," Brodeur said.
Speaking to Button's point of having someone shadow Stamkos during a Lightning power play, Brodeur said the Devils used to do that against Toronto several seasons ago when the Leafs had Bryan McCabe and Mats Sundin, but it's much harder to do that against the Lightning.
"Every time the Leafs had a power play, (Jim) Dowd was just staying there with (McCabe) because they had almost nobody else but Sundin on the half board," Brodeur said. "We were like, 'OK, let's have (Tomas) Kaberle take a hard slap shot looking at me instead of letting him pass off and McCabe just teeing off. We just took him away and he was getting mad.
"It's harder (against Tampa) because you have St. Louis, Lecavalier, Gagne ... who do you give up on? They have Kubina now, and he's got a canon, too.
"You know (Stamkos) is there, but you just can't defend it just because he has other options out there. Put him on the second power play, and he isn't getting off the shots."
The Former Great: He adjusts so well
Brendan Shanahan was known to have one of the quickest releases in the game when he played. Especially during his prime, Shanahan's one-timer was one of the best.
So, he knows a thing or two about what Stamkos is doing these days, and Shanahan told NHL.com a big part of his success came in practice, when he worked on one-timing passes that weren't right on his tape.
"You have to practice one-timing imperfect passes. Obviously he does that," said Shanahan, who now works in the League's New York headquarters as the NHL's Vice President for Hockey and Business Development. "A lot of players refuse to one-time those in practice. You have to master them because that's what mostly happens in games."
Shanahan scored 656 goals over a 21-season career. He topped out at 52 in 1993-94 after striking for 51 the season before. He had six seasons of 40 or more goals and 12 seasons of 30 or more.
He scored a lot with his one-timer, and he wouldn't have if he didn't put the puck on net.
For all he does well with his one-timer, Stamkos' best trait is he always finds the net.
"A lot of players can hit a one-timer, but very few can aim it like him," Shanahan said.
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
Author: Dan Rosen | NHL.com Columnist