Goalie Thoughts: How Goalies Keep Score

Updated: 10/28/2008

This goalie thought is a little insight into how some of us cope with the numbers in lights on the end of the rink.

Yes, the score. You see, the score might determine who wins or loses, but it doesn’t tell the story of how it got that way. Nor does it tell the story of how any one team member played. I’ve had some of my best games in net on the losing side of the battle — there is only so much you can do.

So, in talking with other goalies, I’ve noticed how certain goals bother us more than others. We discount certain goals in our own heads (sure, they are real and they go up on the board). In fact, you can go as far a to say that we goalies have our own way of keeping score. The higher the point value, the worse our performance, kind of like the other team’s goal count (we like low numbers, eh?). So, here goes.

The goalie screwup – Point Value = k*1

These are the goals we hate and that’s why I’m covering them first. These are the goals that I should have had, and easily, but still let in. A classic example is a soft shot along the goal line. There is no angle on that shot, and the chance of it going in are slightly above 0%. These goals are terrible, and more than one of these in a night can really take it’s toll. We know when we’ve let one of these in — whether we show it or not. “k” is the multiplier for how bad you feel (could be as high as 2) or how silly the mistake was. Usually, the higher the “k” value, the less likely you are to make that mistake again!

The basic, normal everyday goal – Point Value = 1

For those of you who watch hockey, there are some goals that are just scored on good shots, or great teamwork. The other team simply creates an opportunity and capitalizes on it. Sometimes they wear you down in your own zone and generate a series of shots. Sometimes they get somebody open on the back door after a lot of work. Sometimes they just beat you fair and square. These are “normal goals” and they happen.

Kung-Fu Saves – Point Value = 1f / x

Sometimes you put together an amazing string of saves. You know, where you make the first save and the rebound gets to an opponent’s stick and comes back so you do the splits and you make another save, but the D can’t clear it and so you launch across the crease to make another save which then gets kicked over and you have to poke check this time. These things happen. Sometimes you put together 5 or 6 of these saves inside of a few short seconds. When you are doing that, you are demonstrating the art of Goalie Kung Fu. Sometimes you get the first 5 but the 6th finds a way to dribble across the goal line. These things happen. Fortunately, with goalie scoring, the point value is 1f/ x where “x” is the number of Kung Fu saves and “f” is a reasonable multipler for your skill level. For instance, I typically use an “f” of 3 (I expect to be able to make 3 Kung Fu saves in a row). If I make 4 Kung Fu saves and the 5th one goes in, the point value is really “3/4” which is less than the number up on the score board. Translation: I did my job, so I’m not taking full credit for that goal.

Odd Man Rushes – Point Value = (0.5) * (1 / x)

I’ve had teams give up a lot of odd man rushes. These can be your solo breakways, your 2 on 1’s, your 2 on goalie’s…. etc. I’ve even faced (multiple times) 3 opponennts at once! What’s up with that? Anyway, these types of situations have their own point valuation. We start with the basic fact that a clean breakaway is about a 50/50 chance (there are factors about how well I know the shooter, how well they know me, comparable skill levels, number of breakways already that game, etc etc, but we’ll stick with 50/50 to keep it simple). The “x” is the number of shooters breaking in. So for a clean 1 on 0 breakway, if they score it’s a point value of 0.5. If for some reason your D are asleep and you see a 2 on 0, the point value is (0.5) * (1/2) or a value of 0.25. Translation, I expect I might get lucky about 1 out of every 4 times when faced with a 2 on 0 breakaway. You get the picture. Adjust and scale as necessary for the conditions at hand.

Tip Ins and Deflections – Point Value = 1f / x

Tip ins, deflections and odd bounces are a standard part of the game. In this case, “x” is the number of times the puck is tipped (yes, it can be tipped 2 or 3 or even 4 times en route to your face). Even so, we utilize the “f” scaling factor for expected skill level. For a beginning goalie, “f” may equal 0.5, meaning you expect to stop only about 1/2 of the tipped pucks from going in the net. As goalies improve, you figure out game strategies for cutting off tip angles and whatnot. At this point, I use an “f” of 1, meaning I expect to stop the first tip. If a puck is tipped twice and goes in, I’ll give it a score of 0.5. If it’s tipped 3 times, I’d have to claim lack of superhuman speed and paranormal predication and grant it a 0.33 point value. You get the picture.


Off the post, off the back of your glove, elbow or back, and in the net- Point Value = 1/2

The posts are your friends, except for the rare times that shooters turn them against you by using them. When the shooter hits the post in such a way as to bank it off the back of your glove and then into the net, you have to give them some props. On the other hand, you have to admit that without the post stabbing you in the back, their shot would not have meant squat. So, in this case we’ll simply split the difference and call it 1/2 a point.

The D coughs it up Goal – Point Value = 1/f

There are those times you have just busted out your Goalie Kung Fu and the D gets possession and your team is skating out of the zone with the puck only to cough it up and find the puck in the net. Often during these times you are just trying to catch a few seconds of breath before the next offensive salvo, and so you find yourself a little further back and unprepared than you should be. All of this can be made especially difficult if it is a D that you trust to clear the zone 99% of the time. Either way, the D cough up goal can be a tough “f” value to assign. Does “f” scale with distance from the crease? (Sometimes the D will try to bring the puck tight around the net only to lose it out of your reach and have the opponent “capitalize” on the “opportunity”). Or does “f” scale with the graciousness of the cough-up? You’ll have to figure out your own point value on this one.

Tie Breaker Penalty Shots – Point Value = 0 -or- (0.5) * (1/x)

This one is simply unfair to assign any point value to regardless. It takes a team to end up in an overtime tie-breaker. If you let the critical one in, the game is over and should be put out of your mind. If you make the critical save, you’re a hero. With these types of outcomes, just let it go as a 0 and move on. However, if that’s not good enough and you like to feel the guilt after the game, go for a (0.5) * (1/x) approach, where (0.5) is the familiar 50/50 odds and “x” is the number of penalty shots you have faced that night. The longer things go, the more your skill and luck are stretched.

Own Goals – Point Value = 0

It can be hard enough to track 5 guys circling around in your zone whirling the puck from player to player. What makes it even harder is that there is a small rubber biscuit in the middle of that chaos and you have to keep your eyes on it. What makes this even harder is that you are trying to move all the time to be in the right place so that you can cuddle the biscuit when it gets launched your way. What makes this even harder is there is typically some dude standing in front of you trying to obscure your view of the biscuit. And if that wasn’t enough, your D tries to perform the noble service of clearing out your view, often to end up blinding you just as badly. Oh, and one more thing — I play at night — which is about 7-10 hours after those people in front of me have had their tacqueria lunches (if you know what I mean). So what happens if a shot is taken, you manage to see it, prepare for it, and suddenly your own D tries to help out by tipping it past you? A point value of 0 my friends. This is a goal that simply does not count in my goalie mind.


Your D falls down and puts them, you and the puck in the net – Point Value = 0

Thanks to Amy for demonstrating this one so cleanly. A guy is coming in on a breakaway and your D is putting pressure on them. As the guy cuts to deke, he loses the puck. Since the cut (and the lost puck) are both a surprise to your D, your D has no choice but to lose both edges, dismount, and slide ass over tea kettle into the puck. Sure, sounds great, except for the momentum part. The puck and the D decide to continue towards your knees at a good velocity (it is ice, and it tends to be slippery). The menage a trois is a nice one and the other team posts a goal. However, being a goalie, you rightfully choose not to count this event as a point against.


Ringing it in the zone, off an end stanchion, off your back, in the net- Point Value = 0

Honestly, this should never have happened. What are the odds? That’s right, terrible. In fact, if you had not even been there the goal would not have scored. You could even challenge a shooter to make the same ring-in 100 times and they still couldn’t recreate this goal. A goal like this is so beyond belief and so completely random that you could argue it doesn’t exist and never happened. Hence the 0 points.

In The House and On The Button – Point Value = -1

The only way I can figure to mentally knock off points is to put the puck in the house and on the button. What? You don’t watch curling? Basically, this happen when I freeze the puck down low (and don’t desperately need a drink of water, a gear adjustment or any of the other things that players have 2 minutes to do every time they get off the ice. This also assumes you know the refs and they know you, as some refs can get pissy about the goalie “playing” the puck after the whistle blows!) The ‘game’ is simple, after the whistle blows and everyone has had a chance to calm down (players, they get worked up, y’know), gently play/push/shove the puck towards the correct faceoff dot. If you can land the puck right on the dot, take a point off the score!!! Sure, sounds easy enough. Trouble is, the ice conditions change throughout the game and it’s really hard to curl a puck without sweepers (or whatever they are called) working the ice in front of you. And if that is bad enough, players will often skate across the facefoff circle without looking, thereby messing up your perfect toss. Best of luck on this one!

Ding Dong Post Hits – Point Value = +/- x

Somebody recently asked me how I valued shots that hit the post. The answer to this one is simple: If it goes in, x = 1 (or whatever the value from above calculations might be). If it doesn’t go in, x = 0. Yes, it’s that simple. In my monkey, a shot hitting the post means that I was in the perfect position — not an inch was wasted being out of position. Gotta keep things positive!

Leave a Reply