The risks (and rewards) of emptying the net
It’s depressing to watch a goal go into your favorite team’s empty net. Up until that point, you could hope against hope that your team would magically end up scoring during that frantic last minute. When it does, it’s pure magic. Just look at Zach Parise’s last minute goal in the Olympic gold medal game.
Still, when that puck instead enters the wrong net, it’s that feeling you get when Sunday afternoon turns to Sunday night; the tunnel at the end all that light becomes bigger. The Globe and Mail’s Eric Duhatschek wrote a stat-packed and fantastic piece about how often the net-emptying strategy worked during the regular season and how infrequently the success carried over to the playoffs so far. Here are a few snippets.
“According to statistics compiled by the Elias Sports Bureau, there were 86 extra-attacker goals scored in the 1,230 regular-season games played - more than almost anyone would think.
... In total, there were 204 empty-net goals scored in the regular-season, meaning what many people believe is a strategy of desperation - pulling the goalie - actually had a fairly high ratio of success this past year.
For reasons that are difficult to quantify, however, that hasn’t carried over into the playoffs, where teams - and gleeful poolies - are cashing in on a whole lot of empty-net goals - 18 as of Thursday, including three more in the last 72 hours.
By contrast, only three times thus far in the playoffs did the extra attacker work - once meaningfully, for the San Jose Sharks, when a goal by Joe Pavelski in Game 2 vs. Colorado sent it into overtime in a game the Sharks eventually won ... “
Phoenix Coyotes assistant coach Dave King summed up why it’s good to empty your net aggressively (and, in that, to be aggressive in general) later on in Duhatschek’s story.
“So it lights people up and it makes the game exciting and I think the most important thing about it is, you’re showing your team that you’re never giving up. Because we pull our goalie sometimes with our team down two goals with two minutes to go. That’s what you’re trying to make your team understand - that you never give up on them. When you don’t pull your goalie, you’re giving up on your team - and that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. So there’s a strong message for your team when you pull your goalie; and when you score, it’s a bonus.”