Analytically speaking, goalies should shoot for the empty net
Hey, the numbers don't lie, right?
DETROIT — Analytically speaking, it was the right choice.
That’s how Anaheim Ducks head coach Greg Cronin described Lukas Dostal’s attempt at the empty net in a 4-3 win against the Detroit Red Wings on Monday.
“You miss it, it’s an icing so it comes back in your zone, so that’s the dangerous part about that,” Cronin said. “Analytics tell you to go for it. So whether he shoots it or a defenseman does (it’s worth attempting.)”
So while most coaches are a little bit more cautious and risk averse, preferring the goalie not to shoot in a one-goal game, Cronin has effectively given Dostal the green light.
For a disciple of the goalie arts, it’s wonderful to hear.
Dostal has also scored before, actually against Cronin, when he was playing in the AHL last season for the San Diego Gulls against the Colorado Eagles.
“Maybe it was a little deja vu for him (Cronin),” Dostal said.
On Monday, from the press box, the path looked good. From the crease, Dostal thought maybe he curled it enough to slide in for his second career tally.
“When I shot it I saw it kind of go wide, and then it started curving toward the net and I was like, ‘holy, it might actually go in,’” Dostal said.
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For a guy who’s scored before and nearly did it again on Monday, Dostal’s puck handling isn’t something he would have originally considered a strength of his game during the 2021-22 season.
“It was something I really needed to work on,” Dostal said. “Those early games for me, at the AHL level, I felt comfortable. But at the NHL level everything happens quicker, so I think my handles were good (before) but my decisions I needed to speed it up. So I worked on that during the summer.”
Those small plays, the ones that don’t get highlighted where a goalie makes a short pass to a defender, or eases a breakout, build into larger potential highlight-reel attempts like Dostal’s on Monday.
With confidence, comes great opportunity.
Fittingly, there were almost two goalie goals on Monday.
As my good pal Dimitri Filipovic messaged me after the game, while watching both games on split screen, he witnessed both Dostal and Alex Nedeljkovic shoot for empty nets at the same time.
It could have been one of the most glorious moments in NHL history.
I told Dostal abut Nedeljkovic’s near miss.
“He had one a couple weeks ago (in the AHL), right?” Dostal said. “Maybe we can both try again our next games.”