The risks (and rewards) of emptying the net

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emptynet.jpgIt’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 … “

Interesting stuff there. I’ve seen the strategy work enough times (see also: Talbot, Max in Game 5 of the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals) to know that it’s certainly “worth it.” Who cares if the opposing team gets a “fake” goal, aside from the fact that game’s coffin is sealed a little bit earlier?

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.”

Oshie’s hat trick lets Caps just barely squeak by Penguins in OT

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What a start.

This series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals might be headlined by Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, but as many have said in the lead-up to tonight’s opener, there is so much more to this second round matchup than that. Washington’s 4-3 overtime victory in Game 1 tonight could be offered up as Exhibit A.

This game had everything except big offensive showings from Crosby and Ovechkin. They had their moments, but in the end combined for just one assist.

What we got instead was a hat trick by T.J. Oshie that was completed with a game-winning goal that made it past the line by such a narrow margin that it warranted a video review:

This game also featured a sequence of three goals in 90 seconds and yet also some great saves by goaltenders Braden Holtby and Matt Murray. At the other end of the spectrum, there was a controversial hit by Tom Wilson that might lead to a suspension.

There was even some odd stuff. Like how Jay Beagle got a stick stuck in his equipment.

Twice:

If this game sets the tone for the rest of the series, then we should be in for a closely contested, highlight filled affair.

NOTES:

Nick Bonino had a goal and an assist for the Penguins. Evgeni Malkin and Ben Lovejoy accounted for the Penguins’ other markers.

— Capitals forward Andre Burakovsky scored the game’s opening goal. It was his first marker of the 2016 playoffs.

— Washington outshot Pittsburgh 15-9 in the first period, but Pittsburgh ended up with a 45-35 edge.

— This is the first time in the 2016 playoffs that Braden Holtby has allowed more than two goals. He surrendered just five goals in six games to Philadelphia.

— Matt Murray suffered his first career postseason loss after winning three straight contests against the New York Rangers.

Video: Wilson delivers late, knee-on-knee hit to Sheary

Wilson hit
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Tom Wilson has already found himself in a controversy for delivering a late, knee-on-knee hit to Penguins forward Conor Sheary in the third period of Game 1 Thursday night.

You can see that incident below:

Wilson spent two minutes in the sin bin earlier in the contest for crosschecking Evgeni Malkin, but there was no penalty on this play.

Fortunately Conor Sheary was able to stay in the game. The question now is if Wilson’s actions will lead to him being suspended prior to Game 2.

This isn’t Wilson’s first brush with controversy. He delivered a big hit to Brayden Schenn in 2013, but Wilson wasn’t suspended for that incident. Lubomir Visnovsky’s final campaign was cut short due to a check by Wilson that angered the New York Islanders. More recently, Nikita Zadorov was concussed by a crushing blow from the Capitals forward.

In 231 career regular season games, Wilson has 50 points and 486 penalty minutes.

Related: Wilson says ‘I’ve never been a dirty hitter’ after teams voice complaints

Video: Penguins, Caps combine for three goals in 90 seconds

Oshie goal
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For the first 30 minutes of Game 1 between Pittsburgh and Washington it looked like goaltenders Matt Murray and Braden Holtby might outshine these star-studded offenses. Then the floodgates opened up, if only for a moment.

Washington already had a 1-0 lead going into the second frame courtesy of Andre Burakovsky‘s first marker of the 2016 playoffs, but Ben Lovejoy and Evgeni Malkin scored back-to-back goals within the span of 57 seconds midway through the second period to tilt the scale in Pittsburgh’s favor. That lead didn’t last for long though as Capitals forward T.J. Oshie got a breakaway opportunity and took full advantage of it.

In total, there were three goals scored in the span of just 90 seconds and you can see all of them below:

After that sequence, the 2-2 tie held for the remainder of the frame. However, Oshie was able to reassert Washington’s edge just 3:23 minutes into the third period.

Video: Beagle gets stick stuck in visor

Beagle
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Through 40 minutes of action in Game 1 of the second round series between Pittsburgh and Washington and we’ve already seen some big moments, along with a pretty unusual one.

Beagle ended up with a stick lodged into his visor towards the end of the second frame. He tried to get it out himself, but ended up having to go to the bench for assistance. You can see that below: