Reach for hook sooner, says new study

Calgary Herald - - SPORTS -

Eye­brows were raised ear­lier this month when Dal­las Stars head coach Jim Mont­gomery pulled his goalie with just less than eight min­utes left in the third pe­riod and his team trail­ing by two goals.

The tac­tic didn’t work in the end. The Ot­tawa Sen­a­tors even­tu­ally scored into the empty net with about 90 sec­onds re­main­ing for a 4-1 vic­tory.

But there’s an ar­gu­ment to be made, at least math­e­mat­i­cally, that even a call that bold came too late.

“I just wanted to put a lit­tle more ur­gency and give our­selves a chance,” Mont­gomery said af­ter the game. “I thought the pulled-goalie sit­u­a­tion ac­tu­ally worked. “We just didn’t score.”

In their paper Pulling the Goalie: Hockey and In­vest­ment Im­pli­ca­tions pub­lished ear­lier this year, bil­lion­aire Clif­ford As­ness of AQR Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment and New York Univer­sity math pro­fes­sor Aaron Brown found that coaches don’t pull goalies soon enough.

Us­ing a math­e­mat­i­cal model that took into ac­count scor­ing prob­a­bil­ity, the deficit faced and time on the clock, the au­thors wrote that teams trail­ing by one should pull their net­min­der in favour of a sixth at­tacker with 6:10 re­main­ing, while a club fac­ing a two-goal deficit should make the move with a whop­ping 13 min­utes left.

In years past, NHL coaches down a goal or two in a game have usu­ally pulled their goalie with any­where from 60 sec­onds to two min­utes re­main­ing in reg­u­la­tion.

This sea­son has seen goalies re­moved for a sixth skater ear­lier, of­ten with about three min­utes re­main­ing when trail­ing by one.

“There are so many vari­ables that are as­so­ci­ated with those sit­u­a­tions,” Pitts­burgh Pen­guins head coach Mike Sul­li­van said re­cently. “It’s very dif­fi­cult, in my mind, to quan­tify the per­fect time.”

St. Louis Blues head coach Mike Yeo said a num­ber of fac­tors play into the de­ci­sion of when to make the call for a sixth skater.

“Some of it has to be feel for the game, how much mo­men­tum you have,” he said. “When you’re deal­ing with pulling the goalie, the odds are still against you.

“You have to live with the fact that some­times it’s go­ing to work and some­times it’s not.”

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Bab­cock has pulled the goalie around the three-minute mark in each of his team’s three losses, but said the ex­act mo­ment has a lot to do with his for­ward ro­ta­tion.

“Any time af­ter four min­utes or three min­utes, that’s kind of what we’re go­ing through,” he said.

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