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Mail Box Question- Does The Extra Attacker Truly Give an Advantage?

Canes Country Mail Box

We received an email a few days ago from Leslie asking why the Canes pull their goalie so often near the end of a game, leaving themselves vulnerable for an easy, empty net goal.   She correctly pointed out that the club rarely scores on those opportunities, (actually they have yet to score a goal all year when pulling the goalie), yet when the opponent scores on the easy empty netter, it in affect ends the game.

I understand that having an extra forward on the ice can help the team to score, but doesn't the empty net allow the defense the better opportunity to score, thus negating any advantage the extra offensive player gives?

To answer Leslie's question, (and a couple of others that I have noticed in comments throughout the season), indeed pulling the goalie for an extra attacker does increase the attacking team's chances of scoring, much like a powerplay.   Granted it is risky and the opposition is put in a much better position to score as well, but a team using this strategy is at a desperate point of the game when they need to score or they will lose anyway, so it seems worth the risk.

While most hockey fans are well aware of the intent and reasoning behind the tactic, most do not know what the success ratio is when employing the strategy.  Gabe Desjardins, a statistician who runs SB Nation's Behind the Net, performed a study over the summer to see how often NHL teams actually score after pulling their goalies near the end of games.

Apparently, the league scoring average is about three times higher with the extra skater than if they did not pull the goalie, (from about 4% to 12%).  So while the move does not pay off as well as a typical powerplay, it certainly does increase a team's chances to score enough to take the risk.

The opposition's chances of scoring go way up as well, as teams score almost at a 40 - 50% clip with an open net available.  Still, most teams feel the risk is worth the potential reward.

Of course, it seems like the Hurricanes are pulling their goalie near the end of every game.  The team is mired in a 13 game winless streak and has only won two games the entire season.  They have employed the strategy more times than any other NHL team this season and unfortunately lead the league by allowing five empty net goals for their trouble. 

One would think that eventually, the odds will catch up with them and they should score.  Time will tell.

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