Understanding Pulling The Goalie In Hockey

If you have been around the game of hockey for a while you have likely heard of the term pulling the goalie. Though for many fans there are plenty of unanswered questions about this piece hockey terminology.

Pulling the goalie in hockey is a term used when a team decides to remove their goaltender from the ice. There are two seperate occassions in which a goalie may be pulled in hockey.

The more common use of the term is when a team pulls their goalie in order to get an extra skater on the ice. This usually takes place when a team is down by a small number of goals late in the game.

The other situation in which the term pulling the goalie is used occurs when a goalie has played poorly in the game. If a goalie is has let in a large number of goals in a small number of shots it is common for teams to pull this goalie and replace him with the backup.

Pulling A Goalie For The Extra Skater

Pulling a goalie for the extra skater late in the game is something that most hockey fans have seen before. Late in a game when a team is losing they may look to this strategy to increase their chance of scoring.

By pulling the goalie an extra offensive player can be added to the ice. This means once the goalie is pulled there will be six players playing against the opposing five players.

This makes the odds of scoring a goal much more likely. The issue with this is that it leaves your net empty. If the opposing team gets the puck within your blue line it is almost guaranteed that a goal will be scored.

The pulling the goalie strategy does not usually work when trying to come back and win a game. Though it does make it more likely that you will score if your team does not pull their goalie.

In most cases, the goalie will be pulled with around one minute left in the game if a team is down by one goal. If a team is down by two goals in a must-win game you may find the goalie is pulled with closer to two minutes left in the game.

If a goal is scored on the empty net the goalie is usually returned to the net. At any point after pulling a goalie for an extra skater you can return him to the net. In most cases, the goalie will be returned if the opposing team scores or if there is a faceoff on their side of the rink.

Pulling A Goalie For the Backup

The other version of pulling a goalie occurs when the starting goalie for the game has had a very bad performance. Playing the goalie position in hockey can be incredibly tough mentally and some nights the goalie may not be in the right headspace.

When these games occur it is expected that the coaching staff pulls the goalie after he lets in a few goals. Leaving the goalie in the net in these circumstances is something that most coaches do not do.

In fact, leaving a goalie in the net after letting in a large number of goals can be seen as disrespectful to the goaltender. Patrick Roy famously requested a trade from the Montreal Canadiens after the head coach failed to pull him until he eventually conceded nine goals.

That being said a goalie is usually only pulled when he has played well below his ability. When this happens the goalie will head over to the bench and the backup goalie will head onto the ice.

Having the goalie pulled can be tough on a backup as in most cases they haven’t warmed up since the start of the game leaving them quite cold.

In very rare cases a pulled goalie may also return back to the ice. This situation only happens when the backup goalies start to perform just as bad or even worse than the starter.

At this point, the head coach may elect to place the starting goalie back onto the ice despite pulling them earlier.

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