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Why Is There No Goalie In Hockey Sometimes?

By / 22 May 2023 10:21 AM

The capitals decides to replace the goal with the 6th attacker on the ice trailing by two goals against the Penguins during last minutes of the game.
Source : twitter

There is no goalie in hockey sometimes because to replace with an extra attacker. This happens during the game's last minutes when the opposing team is leading anyway.

The strategy is to tie the game during the fleeting moment; the data shows that adding the sixth skater triples the chance of a goal.

However, in more than four-fifths of the situation, the opposing team is extending their lead according to the statistics since the 2013-14 season.

The hockey team can choose to play without a goaltender, as the rulebook does not mention a goalie is mandatory but decisive.

The record shows a goalie is pulled in the last minutes in almost all games from the 2013-14 through 2019-20 seasons. 

Usually, the coach pulls the goalie out to the bench within the last two minutes if the team is trailing. In addition, the goalie is replaced if the trailing team is on penalties.

There might be some unlikely situation where we cannot see a goalie; if both goalies on the roster are injured; and the team doesn't have an emergency goalie. 

There is a perceptible advantage to scoring a goal in having a sixth skater on the ice against five, just as similar to a 5V4 power play. But the rate of scoring a goal against an empty net is exceptionally high.

Frank Boucher of the New York Rangers was the first coach to call the goalie back to the bench in 1940s games. He used to replace the goalie while trailing in the game, to go for sheer offense.

Boucher also came up with the idea of using two goalies on the roster throughout the regular season.

What Does Empty Net In Hockey Mean?

An empty net is a goalpost having a free hole (i.e., unguarded by the goaltender) to score a goal.

The goaltender can decisively leave the net empty. The team's coach can also call back the goaltender in hockey if they got a strategy. 

There is no compulsion in hockey to guard the net every time. Actually, there is no rule to mandate a goalie per team in an ice hockey team of 6.

An empty net can also be considered a free hole, as the coaches and players have a term for the space, which is unguarded by the goaltender's body. Some say five holes in the post, and some say seven.

The holes in the hockey post are on each side of the shoulder, each side of the legs, and a hole between the legs. The area under the armpit of the netminder is later considered the sixth and seventh holes.

There are some reasons why the team is leaving the net empty:

  1. Replacing the netminder with the 6th skater to overpower the opposing team,
  2. If the Goalie is injured,
  3. If the team is short of one skater during the last minutes and the opposing team is leading.

Most Empty Net Goals NHL

Most empty net goals NHL are scored by Wayne Gretzky. Recording 56 empty net goals, he stands top of the list even after his retirement in 1999.

The table shows the top 10 lists of players scoring the highest empty netters in NHL history.

Wayne Gretzky56
Alex Ovechkin54
Marian Hossa40
Eric Staal33
Mario Lemieux33
Brad Marchand32
Jarome Iginla32
Zach Parise30
Blake Wheeler29
Joe Thornton29

The top of the list is occupied by the player who retired the #99 from the NHL in 1999. The record is followed by Russian player, Alex Ovechkin with a very close 54 goals.

Marian Hossa used to be the number second on the list until Ovechkin scored the 41st empty netter in the 2021-22 season.

Eric Stall and Mario Lemieux follow the list with 33 goals on the empty net. Lemieux also stands number 8 on the list of players scoring the highest points of all time.

Zachary Justine Parise, an American professional ice hockey left winger is on number 8 scoring 30 goals. 

Sidney Crosby, age 35, ranked 11 on this list is rising on the list with 28 goals. Crosby has very high chance to enter the top 10 soon.

How Many Empty Net Goals Does Ovechkin Have?

Alex Ovechkin has 54 Empty Net Goals (ENG) as of 2023. He is two goals behind to be the player with the highest empty netter in NHL history.

Ovechkin is trailing many of Gretzky's records, including the most ENG in his career. He has been scoring such goals lately.

Alex scored nine empty-netters in the 2021-22 season and succeeded Marian Hossan. This season's ENG is the highest goal in his career.

There have been only three seasons in which he didn't score a single ENG. Before COVID, he scored six ENG in 68 games in the 2019-20 season.

Ovechkin didn't get a chance to score empty net goals in his debut season 2005-2006, in the 2010-11 season, and during COVID (2020-21), where he only played 45 games.

He is often termed to be in Goblin mode in recent years. Ovechkin scored his first ENG in the 2006-07 season; he scored two that season.

How Many Empty Net Goals Does Gretzky Have?

Wayne Gretzky has 56 Empty Net Goals in his career. The record stood for over two decades, trailed by Alex Ovechkin with 54 goals as of the 2022-23 season.

Wayne Gretzky scored his first empty netter in the season 1979-80 while playing for the Edmonton Oilers. He scored 6, the highest number of empty-net goals in his career, in the 1988-89 and 1991-92 seasons.

There has been only one season in which he didn't score a single goal on an empty net. The season was the last season of his career in 1998-99.

Gretzky had scored 27 empty net goals with the Oilers, 23 with the Los Angeles Kings, and 3 with New York Rangers. Gretzky played one season for the St. Louis Blues in 1995-96, adding three empty netters to his record.

NHL Empty Net Goal Leaders

Guentzel during the National Anthen in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2017, who scored most empty net goals in the 2022-23 season.
Source : facebook

NHL empty net goal leaders of the 2022-23 season are Jake Guentzel, Alex Ovechkin, and Sam Reinhart. This season Guentzel scored seven such goals surpassing Alex Ovechkin's six.

The table shows the top 10 lists of players scoring the most Empty Net Goals (ENG) in the 2022-23 season.

Jake Guentzel7
Alex Ovechkin6
Sam Reinhart6
Kevin Fiala5
Brandon Tanev5
Frederick Gaudreau5
Brandon Hagel5
Noel Acciari4
Blake Coleman4
Logan Couture4

Jake Guentzel scored an empty net against Washington Capitals in 3rd game. The Capitals had replaced the goaltender with a  6th skater on the ice; the Penguins were leading the game 3-1.

Guentzel scored another empty net goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Sidney Crosby, the center, lost his stick against William Nylander of the Leafs but successfully passed the puck to Guentzel.

He swiftly led the puck to the empty net despite the checks given by Nylander. Guentzel has scored a total of seven goals on free posts this season. He has scored 197 for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 453 games played.

Alex Ovechkin, the Great 8, has scored six empty net goals this season. Added to his previous records of ENG, he will soon take over the most goals on an empty net from Wayne Gretzky.

Sam Reinhart from Florida Panthers also scored six goals on an empty net in the 2022-23 season. He played all 82 games in the season as the Panthers have qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs 2023. 

He still has a chance to score more. Along with ENG, he has scored 31 goals this season.

Kevin Fiala (Los Angeles Kings), Brandon Tanev (Seattle Kraken), Frederick Gaudreau (Minnesota Wild), and Brandon Hagel (Tampa Bay Lightning) scored 5 empty-net goals in the 2023 season.

Al Iafrate Empty Net Goals Quote

Al Iafrate empty net goals quote is "Empty-net goals are for faggots". The line was first heard from Iafrate in a post-game interview in 1994.

After a close victory against the Boston Bruins, Iafrate was asked the reason for deliberately shooting wide of an empty net in the game. The macho replied with the famous quote trying to display his masculinity.

People say Al Iafrate can be best summed up with his famous interview.

His saying may not be appropriate for some people, but he has proven his strength by hitting the extremely hard slapshot recording 105.2 mph velocity. The record stood top for 16 years until Zdeno Chara shot the puck at 105.4 mph.

The word is offensive, especially in today's world, so the quote is used by people with different and less offensive words.

An NHL alum, Chris Dingman, modified the line and told Iafrate's story to his son Sawyer, "Real men don't score empty net goals."

While playing, Sawyer got a chance to score an empty net, but he made the safe pass to his linemate. "I didn't want my first goal to be empty netter," said Sawyer Dingman.

Another famous dialogue in NHL is from Wayne Gretzky - "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." 

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