I recently got asked who I would pick from the Penguins’ all-time roster to participate in a three-man shootout.
Names like Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby leap to mind.
But my No. 1 choice would be Erik Christensen.
“Crusher” played for the Penguins from 2006-08, departing to Atlanta as part of the Marian Hossa trade.
Christensen was a giant on shootouts. He converted 14 of 23 chances (60.9) while with the Pens, very often beating goaltenders that catch left with a move or wrist shot to the stick side. He was 29-for-55 on his NHL career, scoring 52.7 percent of the time. That’s second all-time among shooters with 30 attempts or more, trailing Detroit’s Slava Kozlov.
Once, after he had scored in his usual spot, I said to Christensen, “Goalies wait for that shot, but still can’t stop it. But the first time you go backhand, you’ll walk it into the net. It would be totally unexpected.”
So, a few games later, Christensen did exactly that, then credited my suggestion in the post-game media scrum.
That was my second NHL assist. The first cost me $6,600.00.
Christensen went from Atlanta to Anaheim to the New York Rangers to Minnesota. He was a competent bottom-six center – 68 goals in 387 NHL games – but being a shootout specialist doubtless prolonged his NHL career.
“I think there’s more made out of [my role in shootouts] than there should be,” Christensen told Sports Illustrated in 2012. “I don’t look at myself as ‘The Shootout Guy.’ I don’t want that label, or to be known as just a shootout guy. Things just sort of happened.”
Christensen’s last NHL season was 2011-12. He then played in the Kontinental Hockey League and in Sweden, ending his pro career in 2017.
He was absolute money on shootouts. I take him over Mario and Sid, easy.
BTW, Lemieux was 0-for-3 in shootouts. His career had very little overlap with the shootout era. But I’d still put him among my three. He’s Mario.