By Lou Korac
It’s the wrist shot that’s taking the NHL by storm right now.
It’s reminding those that follow the Blues just how lethal David Perron’s is these days.
But then again, there are Blues fans out there that are quite familiar with a lethal wrister from one of the greatest goal scorers there is: Brett Hull.
Oskar Sundqvist called it a “suck-in shot.” Call it whatever you want, it’s helping the Blues grab points, again, on another night when perhaps they didn’t deserve them when Perron wasted little time in grabbing Alex Pietrangelo’s pass, getting Columbus defenseman Zach Werenski to bite before pulling it in and wiring a shot past Elvis Merzlikins for the game-winner and a 4-3 overtime win over the Blue Jackets Friday night at Enterprise Center.
The Blues (8-3-3) had a brief eight-second power-play that carried over from regulation, and when Ryan O’Reilly won the opening face-off to Alex Pietrangelo and Pietrangelo carried the puck into the Columbus zone, it’s as if he knew precisely where to get Perron the puck so he can do his thing.
Grab it, toe-drag it, get the defender to bite, and wire (preferably) a low shot over the pad of the goalie. Perron perfected it on a goal in Ottawa on Oct. 10 but high under the bar, he did it from the left circle to win a game in overtime in Detroit just five days ago and then he did it again Friday.
But this doesn’t come without repetition. There’s a reason why Perron comes on the ice early and stays after late with O’Reilly. Practice makes perfect, and right now, Perron is mastering the wrister.
“A lot,” Perron said when asked how much time he spends working on it. “When you see ‘O’Ry’ and I before practice, before a morning skate or after practice or off-day, that’s what we do. We do all kinds of things like that. It’s interesting because his stick is much different. He’s got a stiff one and I’m able to load it a little more, but he’s kind of got shots that he does that I can’t do. It’s just kind of fun to talk about it, practice different things. It’s been working this year and honestly even last year, I had a couple like that and even the year before too so it’s good.”
It was Perron’s fourth game-winner — already — matching his career-high he set with Vegas in 2017-18 (in 70 games) and with the Blues in 2011-12 (57 games).
It’s to the point where if you see Perron with the puck in either of the circles, it’s coming hot, heavy and precise.
“It comes off quick,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “It’s got a lot of velocity on it. He can pick corners.”
That’s putting it mildly.
“Just the way he pulls it into his body and lets the flex take over,” teammate Brayden Schenn said. “He’s sniping right now and we definitely need that moving forward. He’s got a big drag shot. I don’t know who he reminds me of, but he’s a big guy. He’s like 210 pounds and he’s using a 75-flex stick. He’s letting the stick take over and it’s working for him. Hopefully that continues.”
Sometimes there’s time to make a play, survey space and do what you feel is right. Most times, it’s all instinctive, the puck is on the stick and off instantly and quickly, but Perron, who leads the Blues with 15 points (seven goals, eight assists), is finding the soft zone and putting his practice to good use in the game right now and building his confidence level to what seems like an all-time high.
“I don’t think too much,” Perron said. “I just react to be honest with you. I’m trying to set up with that shot, obviously. When I pull it in, I’m trying to set up the ‘D’ how I want to hopefully screen the goalie a little bit off that shot and kind of can I shoot it off to his side just a little bit so the goalie doesn’t have much time to react and it worked out again, so we’ll keep doing that.
“I think it’s more recently, two years, three years ago, I changed my stick, I went to a softer stick, so you’re loading the stick even though you’re closer to your feet. I really improve my shot on that for sure. It’s interesting, you see young guys coming into the league, the way they can shoot the puck, that opened my eyes and I can learn off them.”
Perron saved the Blues from another game in which they rightfully admitted that they didn’t play their best and saved their best for last.
“We talked about it, we know there’s eight seconds,” Perron said. “I heard O’Ry talk, let’s get it going up the ice right away if we can. I kind of got caught in between because we also had a breakout in case we win it a little deeper. I kind of just went back for a second, then I went back in the zone. Petro found me on a nice pass and we were able to get two points here tonight, which is big.
“We found a way and we’re going to keep building here. It wasn’t always pretty tonight, but what’s pretty is two points at the end.”
Photo by AP courtesy of KSDK Sports