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Pens defenseman Daley has success with his slap shot

| Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017, 9:03 p.m.
USA Today Sports
Penguins defenseman Trevor Daley chases the puck ahead of Blue Jackets left wing Scott Hartnell during the first period Friday, Feb. 3, 2017.

ST. LOUIS — Trevor Daley knows the slap shot isn't the weapon it once was in the NHL.

He knows that modern goaltenders are too big and too technically sound to be beaten by the vast majority of unscreened shots, no matter how hard they are launched.

He knows that given the time it takes to wind up and take a full slap shot, a modern defender committed to blocking shots will be able to get in front of the puck with relative ease.

But that doesn't mean he has hung up his slapper for good. When the circumstances are right, he stills lets them fly.

All five of the goals Daley has scored this season coming into a Saturday night matchup with the St. Louis Blues came on slap shots.

Among NHL defenseman, only Montreal's Shea Weber (eight) and San Jose's Brent Burns (seven) have more slap-shot goals.

It's elite company. Weber, who has hit 108 mph on the radar gun, is the undisputed slap shot king of the NHL. Burns has hit the 20-goal mark each of the last two seasons.

Since the NHL started recording shot type in 2009, only three Penguins defensemen have scored more than five slap-shot goals in a season. Matt Niskanen connected on eight in 2013-14. Kris Letang, in 2010-11, and Sergei Gonchar, in 2009-10, had six.

“A couple of them were no choice. I had to take slap shots,” Daley said humbly. “I don't know. A slap shot is probably the hardest shot you can take. Anytime you can get it off, why not try to use it?”

Some of Daley's teammates on the Penguins blue line were a little less understated when praising his shot.

“It's just so accurate,” Justin Schultz said. “It's obviously a lot harder than a wrist shot. Me and (defense partner Ian Cole) were just talking about it, how accurate he is with the slap shot. He can pick any corner. It's really impressive. It's fun to watch.”

In addition to accuracy, a couple of other facets of Daley's game allow him to use the slap shot more effectively than the average defenseman.

First and foremost, he can skate.

Daley's slap-shot goals generally don't come on plays where he parks himself at the blue line, waits for a pass, takes a full wind-up and scores.

No, they're usually more like the goal he scored Tuesday night against Nashville. Daley took a pass from Carl Hagelin while flying through the neutral zone in the middle of the ice. He hadn't pulled far enough clear of his defender to try a breakaway move, but he had enough of a step to get off a slap shot, much to the dismay of flustered goalie Pekka Rinne.

“He walked into that one pretty good. It was a beauty goal,” Schultz said. “That was awesome. It got the boys fired up for sure.”

The key to the play, though, was Daley's speed.

“Guys are so fast in today's game,” Schultz said. “You have to be mobile. To get a slap shot off, you need some time. He's good at escaping and finding space and getting a shot off.”

Daley also uses the slap shot as an effective tool because he plays on his off side.

While Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin were out with injuries earlier this season, Daley, a left-handed shot, was switched to the left side out of necessity. Once everyone got healthy, he moved back to the right, which is the side he prefers.

“A lot of times, when I'm playing my off side, it sets up pretty nice,” Daley said. “When you're on the other side, playing your strong side, it's a little harder to take it. That helps out a lot, too.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.

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