It may not lead to the most exciting brand of curling, but the ability to deliver blanked ends when needed is an important skillset in the sport.
And Team Bottcher might just be the best at it in the men's game. (photo: Stan Fong, Hardline Curling)
"Not too many times do you say the highlight of the end was a double-peel by the second," said Team Bottcher coach Paul Webster. "It's not as memorable. However, on a team basis it's definitely one of the highlights for us."
The team strategy is working for the Calgary-based crew that's ranked second in the world behind Italy's Joel Retornaz. Webster said the team - which includes Ben Hebert, Brett Gallant, Marc Kennedy and skip Brendan Bottcher - delivers more blanks than anyone, even though that's not the goal.
"We don't go into an end wanting to blank," he said. "Our goal with hammer is to always score two."
So why so many blanked ends?
It usually comes down to what Bottcher is feeling on the ice, Webster said.
"He has that ability to see the rocks and understand the scoreboard - and understand possibly earlier than most - that a two is going to be really, really hard," he told CurlingZone.
"It's still possible but at the risk of being forced to one, he's not willing to take that. We try to discuss the majority of strategy stuff off the ice and one of our key learnings these days is just to - in our words - just let Bottch run. So we let him call the game and give him a lot of confidence in doing that."
"I think honestly when we don't play well, we actually get in front of that and try to do too much," Webster added. "So a big focus for us is to really spend our energy on trying to make the shot that is called versus wondering if the shot that was called is the right one."
No blanks were required in Bottcher's first two games at the NuFloors Penticton Curling Classic.
Bottcher opened with a 9-2 rout of Sebastien Robillard in five ends on Thursday. Only four ends were required in an 8-0 shutout of local skip Chris Jones and a 6-1 rout of Edmonton's Karsten Sturmay followed on Friday.
On Saturday, Bottcher was scheduled to play Switzerland's Marco Hoesli and Jared Kolomaya of Richmond, B.C.
Webster said the squad regularly hears from fans about its blank-heavy style.
"I think we jump to quicker mathematical conclusions than some teams and try not to hope that there's still a two available in third rocks," he said.
The longtime coach admits he enjoys watching big shots for three or four points too, but game strategy is paramount and avoiding the force is key.
"I think we have three or four different ways to win these days," Webster said. "So when Brendan is feeling it and we're making those first three or four shots perfectly, we have some 7-6 and 8-6 games and so on. If we're getting the rocks just not in the right spots early, we can have a 4-3 game.
"The win is the biggest part of that."
Critics of multiple blanks complain it can be like a curling version of hockey's neutral-zone trap or a 1-0 soccer game.
"You hear the comments that it's boring," Webster said. "We probably blank more ends when we play teams like Retornaz and so on. It's actually really hard with the five-rock rule and the no-tick rule these days to blank an end."
With valuable points and cash on the line, the goal is to get the victory whether it's a low-scoring or high-scoring matchup, Webster said.
"The guys have really bought into letting Brendan decide on how that looks and how that's going to go for (a) game," he said. "That's based on what he's feeling he's getting from his team, the ice conditions, what he feels he's getting from the other team.
"We had a couple ends a few bonspiels back where we got threes or fours in the first end. We'd love to take threes or fours all the time but we really don't want to take ones. So that balance is super important."
Competition continues through Monday at the Penticton Curling Club.
Visit www.curlingzone.com for live-streaming of games and replay links.