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Empty net syndrome
May 16, 2011 7:46 AM   Subscribe

Why do ice hockey goalies ever leave the net?

In last night's Vancouver-San Jose game, two goals were scored as a direct result of poor passes by goalies from behind their own net. In one case, Vancouver's Roberto Luongo passed it directly to San Jose's Joe Thornton, who scored on essentially an empty net. This brings up a question I have had for years: why do goalies ever leave their own net to recover pucks behind the net? It happens dozens of times a game, but I've rarely seen it lead to anything good, and it often seems to lead to something bad. I can understand doing this if there is a serious chance that an opposing player could get to the puck first, but that doesn't seem to be the case a lot of the time. So what is the logic, other than bored goalies wanting to do something different?
posted by googly to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
but I've rarely seen it lead to anything good

It lets you put another player up the ice.
posted by smackfu at 7:50 AM on May 16, 2011


I'm guessing that the majority of these assists came from passes from the goalie leaving the net.
posted by Grither at 7:53 AM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Timely recovery of as well as maintaining possession of the puck. If the goalie can dart back to recover and pass the puck forward then those extra seconds saved can add up to enough time for another possession, shot attempt, etc.

Also, having the goalie as an extra player on the field is a huge advantage over the other team (with the obvious weakness of leaving your net untended). It's the same advantage as when a player sits in the penalty box to do their time.
posted by joydivasian at 7:55 AM on May 16, 2011


They do it to take control of the puck. When the puck goes flying around the boards it will come out the other side where the opposing team can make a play for it; in this case the goalie is essentially intercepting an attempted pass. He can fire it back to his player and the team can go on the offense.

Getting the puck if it is sitting behind the net is high priority as well, because an opposing player with the puck behind the net can make a centering pass OR attempt a wraparound shot, both high-probability scoring options.
posted by PercussivePaul at 7:57 AM on May 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


It lets you put another player up the ice.

That is not the situation in question. The situation is going behind the goal to get a puck and dumping it off to your offense.
posted by spicynuts at 8:07 AM on May 16, 2011


First, ask "when/why does a goalie leave the net ?"

The answer, some 95% of the time, is to intercept a dumped puck.

Why do teams dump the puck ?

Well, that's more complex. Is it a dump-and-chase ? Meaning the offensive team dumps the puck around the boards so the opposite side winger picks it up to make a play. (Versus carrying the puck into the zone. If the team puts a solid blue line defense, teams will dump and chase, since they can't carry the puck across the blue line).

A goalie intercepting (stopping) the dump before it gets around to the opposite side winger lets the defenseman (hopefully) get to the puck faster than the attacking winger, and start a break out.

Alternatively, the goalie will act like the defenseman, by intercepting the puck and passing it to the defensive winger to start the breakout from their zone.

Or is it a dump and line-change ? Meaning, dump the puck in the zone and the dumping team changes players.

When it's a line-change, having the goalie field the puck means the defensive team can break out of their zone and start a counter attack faster. Faster is important because 5 fresh players are coming off the bench to forecheck the puck against 5 not-so-fresh defensive players. Less time deep in the zone with fresh attackers is a good thing.
posted by k5.user at 8:10 AM on May 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


That is not the situation in question. The situation is going behind the goal to get a puck and dumping it off to your offense.

Right, I didn't mean, end of game, pull the goalie. I mean if the goalie isn't the one passing it up, it's another member of your team that has to do it, and one less player to pass to.
posted by smackfu at 8:15 AM on May 16, 2011


If they goalie is good at puck retrieval, it's like having a 3rd defensemen. It can a particularly effective foil against an aggressive forechecking or dump & chase team. Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils is one of the best ever at this and contributed to their very stingy defense of the 90s. This also caused offenses to stagnant and the perception was borrrrrrrring. Consequently, that trapezoid area behind the net you see was added a few years back. Behind the red line, goalies are only supposed to retrieve the puck inside the trapezoid, whereas they used to be able to skate anywhere behind the line for puck retrieval.

I agree with your sentiment though. It seems like goalies aren't nearly as good at puck possession as they used to be. Maybe it's because they don't practice as much with the trapezoid rule? I don't know.
posted by jmd82 at 8:17 AM on May 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


^I came in here to mention Brodeur. Opponents have said it's like the Devils have a third defenseman, given his ability to neutralize dumps-and-chases.

Maybe less talented goalies are overreaching for a skill that, considering the gear a goalie wears, is pretty damn difficult. Seriously, try shooting or passing accurately or strongly with a goalie stick while wearing a blocker and a glove. It sucks, and you can see that a lot of professional goalies are weak at it. But they see it done well so think they should do it, too.
posted by entropone at 8:39 AM on May 16, 2011


One of the commenters on TV last night noted that the two goalies in the Van-SJ are particularly poor puck handlers. I don't know how true that is, but that game may have been a big outlier for that reason.
posted by auto-correct at 8:40 AM on May 16, 2011


Since the lockout the league has cracked down on interference by defensemen which kind of gives an advantage to forwards entering the offensive zone in that they can chip the puck in and chase it down at full blast while the defenders need to react, turn, etc to get back. The goalie going out and slowing the puck down, or playing it to a teammate can neutralize that advantage and give them a chance to get possession going the other way. Unfortunately for them, some goalies aren't as good at making passes as others (Turco and Brodeur are the guys famous for being good at it) and while they can usually get back in net fast enough to at least not make it a freebie they sometimes give up scoring chances.

I don't know for sure but I imagine that pass by Luongo last night was a particular no-no since he tried to move the puck through open ice rather than on the boards. If he had just passed it up the boards it would have taken Thornton a lot longer to get a good shot off and he would have had more time to make a save.
posted by ghharr at 8:52 AM on May 16, 2011


One reason Vancouver's goalie, Roberto Luongo, doesn't handle the puck very well is because he's a natural right handed shot, and holds his stick in his right hand. When he handles the puck, and wants to get a good shot away, he would have to "flip" his stick over to shoot right handed (and have the curve of the stick facing the wrong way). A left shooting goalie already has his stick in the right position (he just has to user his trapper hand to grab the bottom of the stick). Under pressue, and with less time, he would not flip his stick, but would have to shoot left handed, which is more difficult for a right handed shooter.
I don't know about Neimi.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 9:02 AM on May 16, 2011


Sorry, Niemi, the San Jose goalie.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 9:04 AM on May 16, 2011


Goals given up are rare compared to all the plays a game where the goalies come out of the net. Mostly they just will stop the puck in its tracks or just send it along the boards. This limits the opposing teams chance to score and increases their own teams chances.

Simply put giving up an occasional goal is worth the risk.
posted by travis08 at 9:07 AM on May 16, 2011


Plus, having played nets for many years myself, it keeps your head in the game.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 9:59 AM on May 16, 2011


Echoing k5.user, ghharr and the rest, it is about disrupting the play of the other team.

On the Luongo blunder San Jose dumped the puck in hard, trying to send it all the way around to their left winger on the far boards who was crossing the blue line with plenty of speed. Luongo went behind his net to stop to puck continuing around to that winger. That is a good start but it still leaves the puck 3 feet from the Vancouver net and its still a foot race between the Vancouver and San Jose skaters to get to it first.

According to the post-game interviews Luongo wanted to play it into the corner to his d-man (as safe as it gets in his own end) but the SJ right winger got their first. His second choice was to shoot it up the boards to one of his forwards but somehow he completely missed Joe Thornton trailing the play into the zone and it all went pear-shaped. Sending the puck in the other direction was an even worse choice (he was blind to the play and was on the wrong side of the net to cover the near post). With hindsight I guess just parking it against the boards behind his own net was his best option.
posted by N-stoff at 10:03 AM on May 16, 2011


Here are a couple of great videos explaining everything already mentioned (if you're an audio/visual learner like myself, it might help to keep everything straight).
posted by Yzerfan at 2:42 PM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


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