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Luck or skill? For goalies looking to score, it takes both

Wednesday, 12.05.2007 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

The Sharks' Evgeni Nabokov scored a goal when he
shot the puck the length of the ice in a 2002 game.
Luck or skill?

That’s the big question when it comes to goalies scoring goals the shooter’s way, not the last-one-to-touch-the-puck-wins way.

“I think I just got lucky,” San Jose Sharks netminder Evgeni Nabokov, who scored his goal on a length-of-the-ice shot on March 10, 2002, told NHL.com.

OK, Mr. Nabokov, but what about that whole stickhandling part of the equation? Doesn’t that take some skill?

VIDEO: Goalie goal footage

“The only thing is some goalies can raise the puck really high and others can shoot it really hard,” Nabokov retorted. “I was always practicing to shoot hard, but you never practice to score the goal. I don’t think any goalie practices to score the goal. You just try to handle the puck and put some juice on it.”

Luck or skill? How about both?

Goalies who have lit the lamp need everything to be perfect, including the bounce of the puck, the shooting lane and the ice. Plus, they must possess a heck of a lot of stickhandling talent to maneuver that biscuit all the way down the ice for a chance.

This, mind you, while wearing a catching glove on one hand, and these days avoiding a penalty due to the trapezoid rule.

(Disclaimer: No goalie has scored via a shot since the trapezoid was implemented).

“I think the thing you have to do is get it up and over everybody. That’s the biggest thing, and at times, it’s impossible,” said Ron Hextall, the former NHL goalie who was the first to score a goal by shooting it into an empty net. “If guys are smart and they see Martin Brodeur with the puck, they start to head back. Far blue line is about as far as anybody can shoot it so if a guy gets back to that point you’re likely not going to score.

“To tee it up and get it off the way you want it and to get the loft and the accuracy, I mean, it’s not going to happen often. Everything has to be right.”

Factoring in to the equation is the time and score elements, because no goalie will try to shoot the puck down the middle of the ice if it could put his team and its lead in jeopardy, especially at the end of the game.

“When the game is a one-goal game, you’re just trying to get the puck out in a safe way,” Nabokov said. “It’s usually six-on-four or six-on-five and guys are going to try to knock it down.”

“I tried it once, but it cost us a tie in a game, so I never tried it again,” added Hall of Fame goalie Billy Smith, the first goalie in NHL history credited with a goal. “After that, it never crossed my mind. I couldn’t shoot the puck as well as Hexie (Hextall), so I wouldn’t take a chance to put my team at risk.”

But if the situation is right, you can bet a goalie, especially a sure-handed one like Hextall, Brodeur, Nabokov, Chris Osgood or Jose Theodore, thinks about striking gold on the other end of the ice.

“It has happened pretty often, especially if the score is 2-0 or we’re up more than two goals, than I try to go for it,” Nabokov said. “There aren’t that many guys who can score it, and sometimes when you’re really confident and you can raise the puck you say, ‘Hell with it, I’m going to go for it,’ but the situation has to be right.”

Quote of the Day

The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres