How early should you pull your goalie? Patrick Roy’s gamble paid off, with a little luck

Colorado Avalanche

How early should you pull your goalie?

Almost every coach does it with about one minute left in a one-goal game, and maybe around 1:30 in a two-goal deficit. But not Patrick Roy.

The Avalanche coach is known as an aggressive individual and his coaching style is the same – he’s been known to pull his goalie earlier than is conventional. Once, when he still coached major junior in the QMJHL, his Quebec Remparts were in a semifinal series against the Shawinigan Cataractes. The series was tied 1-1 and Shawinigan led 3-0 in the third period, when they took two minor penalties less than a minute apart. So, with a 5-on-3 advantage already, Roy decided to go the extra mile and opted to pull his goalie for a 6-on-3 advantage.

There was more than 12 minutes left on the clock.

It didn’t work that time, as Shawinigan scored into the empty net and went on to win the series.

And it didn’t work just last month when Roy pulled Semyon Varlamov with five minutes left of a 2-0 game against Boston. Though the Bruins didn’t score, neither did the Avalanche. No harm, no foul.

It did work in early February against New Jersey, when Roy pulled his goalie with two-and-a-half minutes left in a 1-0 game. They tied it up with less than two minutes left and Ryan O’Reilly buried the overtime winner.

And it worked again in Game 1 of Colorado’s Stanley Cup playoff series against Minnesota.

Roy first pulled Varlamov with three minutes left in a 4-3 game. He kept his goalie out through a neutral zone faceoff on Minnesota’s half of the ice and Paul Stastny rewarded his coach’s ambition and forced overtime with 13 seconds left.

So Roy’s gamble paid off…barely.

Erik Johnson also had a hand in the win, saving an empty-net goal shot from the other end of the ice with this hustle play.

And that, set up this.

With 12:33 left in the first overtime period, Stastny gave the Avalanche their 1-0 series lead and made Roy look like a genius.

So, when should you pull your goalie?

When you do it early and lose, you can look foolish.

But when it works?

When it works, you’re coach of the year.

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