February 7th, the Caps are hosting the Panthers and are up 2-1 late in the 3rd. With about a minute and a half left, the Panthers pull their goalie to put an extra skater on the ice (which, if I remember correctly, actually gave Florida a 6-4 man advantage), hoping to create some extra offense, score a goal and put the game into overtime.
Even the most casual hockey fan watching would not be surprised by this—pretty standard procedure: if you’re down by a goal (or two), pull your netminder to add an extra skater in a “last-ditch effort” to extend the game and/or win it outright.
My buddy, however, who was watching the game with me says, “You know, I can’t remember a game this season when the Caps had an empty net situation and didn’t score on it—if you ask me, the Panthers would have a better shot if they left Vokoun in the goal.” He then added, “The Caps don’t even seem to mind risking an icing call to send the puck all the way down from the other end.” And, as if on cue, Mike Green does just that—sends the puck all the way down from around the Caps’ goal line and sinks the insurance goal with only about a minute left, and the Capitals end up winning 3-1. (Granted, if the Caps were in fact short-handed as I remember, icing would not have been a factor in this instance).
But the question was this: Does this ever happen? Would this even be a smart strategy, or is it something no coach would ever do because it would be second-guessed way too much? Do coaches ever elect to NOT pull the goalie against teams that have proven dangerous against an empty net situation? Maybe it does happen and I’ve just never paid attention, but I can’t seem to remember any times when I’ve seen it…the “Miracle on Ice” game being an obvious exception, of course.