In ice hockey, an empty net is when a team removes their goalie from play in exchange for an extra skater.
This happens toward the end of a game, when a team is losing with just a few minutes left and needs to score a goal. This creates a high risk situation, as there is no goalie to defend the team's net from opposing attackers, hence the name 'empty net.' Empty nets occur in nearly every game. The goal is to get the team a better chance to score a game tying goal and send it to overtime for a chance to win, or at least secure a point.
Teams most often employ an empty net when they are losing late in games. They tend to pull their goalies when there is around 60-90 seconds left in the final period. However, some people believe that teams should be pulling them with closer to 2 minutes left, as it would allow the team more time with an attacking advantage, and give them a better chance to even the score. There are some cases where games are tied and one team pulls their goalie because they don't want to go to overtime, but this is rare.
An empty net allows a team to bring an extra skater on to the rink. This creates an attacking advantage for them, as they have 6 skaters against 5 skaters and 1 goalie, rather than the normal 5 on 5. The issue is that the empty net makes it easier for the opposing team to score. This is why it happens when teams are down late in the game; they don't have much to lose, and need to score quickly to tie the game and send it to overtime.
Using an empty net does not work very often. This is part of why some people believe teams should start pulling their goalies earlier, so that they have more time for the attackers to settle in and use their advantage. According to More Hockey Stats, only 3 teams did not allow more empty net goals than they scored in the 2019-20 season (2 of those teams scored the same number of goals as they allowed). Only 1 team scored 9 goals with an empty net; 17 teams allowed more than 9 goals with an empty net.
The Washington Capitals have scored the most goals with an empty net in the 2019-20 season, with 9 goals. Player goals with an empty net is not tracked; however, player goals against an empty net is.
|PLAYER||TEAM||EMPTY NET GOALS|
|Sebastian Aho||Carolina Hurricanes||6|
|Gustav Nyquist||Columbus Blue Jackets||6|
|Alex Ovechkin||Washington Capitals||6|
|Tanner Pearson||Vancouver Canucks||6|
|Kyle Connor||Winnipeg Jets||5|
|Patrice Bergeron||Boston Bruins||5|