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Difficulties Associated with Scoring on an Empty Net

Posted by Timothy Wynn on March 7, 2013 at 4:30 PM

Let's take a closer look at this aspect of hockey, and disect it from the perspective of opposing teams within the context of an NHL game.  This facet of hockey usually occurs in the remaining minutes or seconds of a game in most cases, (other than if a player is a victim of a delayed penalty call, and the opposition is able to maintain puck control to effectively spring a 6th player on to the ice) and is of utmost importance, in my mind, with regard to sports handicapping.

Before we do this, I would like to go off on a slight tangent and review one of the significant differences between NHL hockey and the remaining three cornerstones of North American sport.  The other three sports offer denomination scoring as follows:

NFL    TD = 6 points    FG = 3 points    S = 2 points    PAT = 1 point

I used the NFL as the primary example because of its black and white simplicity, but we can also see the same thing with the NBA where scoring is generated via the 1 point free throw, 2 point field goal, and 3 point long distance field goal shot;  and also the numerous opportunities for MLB teams to score multiple runs in a variety of different ways.  The NHL does not offer this variety.  A goal is a goal no matter how they score it, or from where they score it.  This may seem redundant because most people are already aware of this difference, however, I challenge you to reach down deep and really think of the impact this has pertaining to game results, and how the oddsmakers use it to their advantage.  I will now return to the original topic this article began with.

From the perspective of the team attempting to score the tying goal, all out aggression, crash and bang theory, is used to get the puck into the offensive zone, gain and maintain possession, and generate as many scoring opportunities as possible in the waning moments of a game.  With an extra attacker on the ice, it is a substantial advantage over the defending team for many reasons.  The defending team's pinnacle focus is not scoring into the empty net (which is a long enough distance away to cause accuracy issues), but denying the opposition from gaining possession in the form of keeping the puck in neutral possession up along the boards and away from their goal net.  If they are able to gain clear possession then their next step is to simply get it beyond their own blue line.  If they are successful in completing this task, sometimes it does not work in their favour.  Icing creates a new enemy.  Not only does the puck return to a circle within their defending zone, but they are also denied the ability to change lines, thus keeping their fatigued line on the ice for yet another face off (a coach may use a time out if they still have any remaining to regain some wind).

As you can see, the concept of scoring into an empty net seems simple.  Actually completing this action is much more difficult.  I have found this knowledge to be imperative when handicapping NHL hockey games.  I will not answer why in this article because this is something all aspiring handicappers and sports bettors alike need to figure out for themselves regarding what advantage the oddsmakers have, how they are utilizing it, and how to avoid it.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article and I hope you use it to your advantage in the future.

 

 

Categories: Sports Forecasting

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1 Comment

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9:45 PM on March 7, 2013 
Timothy, great article. I am still scratching my head as to the exact advantage you are referring to and what that precisely is, but I like that you have left that out to keep people thinking, and on their toes. It IS often difficult for a defending team to score against 6 players because its equivalent to a PP for the opposing team. If anyone watched the Leafs-Sens game last night they would have seen the Sens get a 4th goal due to pulling the G and it almost allowed for the full 2 goal comeback with under 2 minutes remaining. Realistically, the defending team needs to get a clear shot from at least beyond their own blue line for it to not be wasted on an icing, and at that point they probably have the space to get a closer & more accurate shot as is.