I have dubbed it the “School of Roy”. The strategy that freshman coach Patrick Roy of the Colorado Avalanche has instilled of pulling the goalie with more than the usual amount of time left in a game in an effort to score a tying goal.
It is a strategy that is even catching on around the league as Bruce Boudreau gave Roy a little bit of credit for Anaheim’s comeback win in game 6 of their series with the Dallas Stars that saw the Ducks score twice late to tie it up and force overtime.
While I don’t have any empirical data to support my theory as of right now, this strategy is bound to fail more than it works. Playing in front of an empty net for so long (2.5 – 3 minutes in many cases) will almost always be a recipe for disaster.
In certain situations, (ie. trailing by 2 goals, or already on a power play) it might be effective, but spending that much time, and also possibly undergoing 2 or 3 line changes during live play will make that strategy backfire more often than not.
Granted, pulling the goalie with the more accepted 1:00 – 1:30 left isn’t much more of a sure thing, and still offers the opportunity to backfire, but in many of those instances it comes after a timeout or line change where the 5 or 6 guys on the ice will remain on the ice until a goal is scored either way.
Trailing by a goal into the final minute with a last ditch effort might not always get the job done, but as people buy into the “School of Roy” it will have a much higher failure rate than waiting until the more conventional time and situation.
Having your best players on the ice when your goalie is pulled is also a factor in the level of success or failure of the strategy. In the case of the Avalanche loss Monday night, Ryan O’Reilly was on the ice for a shift of 2:26, during which time both of the Wild’s empty netters were scored putting the game out of reach.
In the Ducks’ case on the weekend, they were trailing by 2 goals when Jonas Hiller was pulled with 2:28 left and the Ducks came back.
The first time the strategy worked for Roy (in the post-season) was in game 1, when the Avs scored the tying goal with 14 seconds left to force overtime. Roy had pulled the goalie with 3:01 left and I said at the time although it worked, it wasn’t the right play. It was a minor miracle, and an unbelievable hustle play by Erik Johnson, that Minnesota didn’t score on the empty net and put that game out of reach. We will never know if Colorado still would have scored that late goal if the goalie had been pulled with 1 minute to go instead of 3, but the risk in that case might not have been worth the reward.
I still think that it is the wrong move, and as more coaches at different levels do it, it is going to backfire more often than you would expect. Anything more than 2 minutes is like giving the game away. Yes, you are probably going to lose it anyway on a 2 goal deficit, but taking that chance, over the long run, is going to guarantee it.
While Roy’s strategy has been called “brilliant” or “genius”, that won’t last too long.