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NHL Notebook

Rethinking when to pull the goalie Add to ...

The conclusion?

"We discovered the current strategy used by coaches is pretty much always the worst," said Beaudoin. "You have to be much more aggressive, especially if you get power plays late in the third and you're trailing. Often, you have to pull the goalie much sooner."

Beaudoin's research eventually came to the attention of then St. Louis Blues' coach Andy Murray, who was one of the most aggressive coaches in terms of pulling his goaltender during his time behind the bench of the NHL team. However, the majority of clubs stick to a tried-and-true strategy - of waiting until the very end to adopt the tactic.

"One of the keys is when you pull the goalie," said Dave King, the Phoenix Coyotes' assistant and another of the league's more progressive thinkers. "There's something magic about that one-minute mark, but to me, the most important thing is, if you get a faceoff in the offensive zone with a minute and a half left, that's not a bad time to do it right then because you've got the faceoff you want; you're in the offensive zone, where you want to be; and then you can organize. You can call a timeout. Sometimes, you don't get that.

"Sometimes, you're hoping for a stoppage in play and don't get one. Then you've got to get it done on the fly; that's when it's more difficult. Then you tell the guys, get it to the net and see what happens. Keep it simple."

King is an experienced international coach, who has worked in Germany and in Russia. In Germany, a handful of teams would occasionally pull their goaltenders, mid-game, if they had a two-man advantage in order to make it a 6-on-3. Uwe Krupp, the German Olympic coach, was prepared to try it in Vancouver, but the opportunity didn't arise.

When King coached internationally, he faced Russian teams that never pulled the goalie under any circumstances.

"They'd rather lose 3-2 than 4-2," said King. "I can remember many world championships and Izvestia Cups and tournaments like that where they wouldn't pull their goalie. I mean, you couldn't believe it.

"Conversely, in Europe, when we would do it, it would just electrify the building. I remember being in Russia and pulling our goalie with about a minute and a half to go and people were going crazy. They were just so excited about it all. They couldn't believe it. 'They're taking their goalie out.'

"So it lights people up and it makes the game exciting and I think the most important thing about it is, you're showing your team that you're never giving up. Because we pull our goalie sometimes with our team down two goals with two minutes to go. That's what you're trying to make your team understand - that you never give up on them. When you don't pull your goalie, you're giving up on your team - and that's not the way it's supposed to be. So there's a strong message for your team when you pull your goalie; and when you score, it's a bonus."

One of Phoenix's most important regular-season victories this past year came in Detroit when they succeeded in scoring two goals with the netminder on the bench to tie the game and then won in overtime.

As for all those goals cascading into the empty net in these playoffs, according to King, that can be helpful too.

"That's the other side of it. Sometimes, it gives you a chance to put a guy on the ice who's a solid player and needs a goal to get out of a slump. He's playing hard. He's competing. He's gone seven, eight, nine games without a goal and he gets an open-netter and wow, suddenly he's feeling great"

AROUND THE RINKS - The fallout from the Sabres' opening-round loss to the Boston Bruins has landed mostly on the shoulders of Tim Connelly and Drew Stafford, two of their more talented but soft players. Even if the Toronto Maple Leafs are trying to change things, the NHL's Northeast Division doesn't exactly hearken back to the days of the Big Bad Bruins or Broad Street Bullies. If Connolly does need a change of address, would the Sabres ever consider swapping him for his clone, Matt Stajan, most recently of the Calgary Flames and a new $14-million contract? No chance, right. As for Stafford, old friend Jim Matheson has been trying to get him traded to Edmonton for years, so that he could play on the same team that employed his uncle, equipment manager Barrie Stafford, for all those years. Stafford was removed from his old job during the Oilers' house cleaning so Edmonton probably isn't a likely destination for him. Still, what if Stafford is the Eastern Conference equivalent of Peter Mueller, a player who couldn't make it work in Phoenix, but blossomed after the trade to Colorado (20 points in 15 games; Mueller had only 17 in 54 for the Coyotes). All around the league this past year, there were success stories revolving around players that took advantage of a change in scenery, either to smarten up, or just turn the page on a situation that wasn't working, or both (see Guillaume Latendresse, Benoit Pouliot and to some extent, even Wojtek Wolski and Teddy Purcell). The Sabres accomplished a lot this year with very little beyond goaltender Ryan Miller and future Calder Trophy winner Tyler Myers, but just because it didn't work out for a player there doesn't mean it can't happen for him elsewhere. Sometimes, a lateral move is better than no move at all.

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