Sergei Fedorov is currently in his first year as head coach for CSKA Moscow.
While he was an NHL player, Fedorov was credited with having one of the brightest minds in hockey. Now as a KHL bench boss, Fedorov has led his team to one of the best records in the league. He’s also introduced a new, aggressive tactic in three-on-three overtime that’s getting attention in Russia: pulling the goalie while at even strength.
Over the last week, the strategy paid off in consecutive games. On Thursday, December 2, in a game against Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, Fedorov summoned goaltender Ivan Fedotov to the bench as CSKA had possession of the puck in the offensive zone with two minutes remaining in overtime. Mikhail Grigorenko scored the overtime game-winner on a rebound after Nikita Nesterov unleashed a rocket from the point. The goal gave CSKA Moscow the 1-0 victory.
Pulling a goalie in OT? Sounds like a plan. pic.twitter.com/DTnnNYhypr
— KHL (@khl_eng) December 2, 2021
Four days later, Fedorov tried it again while CSKA was tied with Dynamo Moscow, 2-2, in OT. With four minutes remaining, CSKA gained the zone and Fedorov pulled Fedotov. CSKA cycled the puck around the zone, tiring out Dynamo who was aggressively going for puck to try and get an empty-net goal. Eventually, Nikita Nesterov unleashed a shot from the point that eluded Dynamo goaltender Ivan Bocharov as Sergei Plotnikov set a screen in front of the net.
The goal gave CSKA the 4-3 win.
Sergei Fedorov does it again! CSKA pulls goalie in OT and wins it in 2nd straight game! pic.twitter.com/Nt6eLyHCNM
— KHL (@khl_eng) December 6, 2021
“There was some feeling of rhythm,” Fedorov said of the strategy after beating Lokomotiv. “When there are fewer players on ice, it is easier to keep the puck in the zone, perform some kind of move. Four-on-three is only [seven] people, but six-on-five is 11. Thus the defending team has more chances to send the puck towards our goal. In other words, fewer people – more room.
“We shouldn’t talk percentages here, it’s a game situation,” he added. “You have to respect your opponent, watch who they have on the ice. We have to control the puck in the zone. Not all the thoughts are finished here (about the strategy), we need to work on it. I think the guys understand some aspects of it. Probably needs to be added that I am not a fan of shootouts. It’s a lot of stress for the guys, and there is no shootout in the playoffs. That’s why a play with a few players on the ice, but a numerical advantage for us, can take place. There is no three-on-three in the playoffs.”
Fedorov said one of the most important aspects of this strategy is the decision-making of the rearguard at the point. “We ask the defenseman to make sure they get the puck to the net, be it a slapshot or a wrister.” If not, they’re asked to cycle the puck and make a safe play.
Fedorov credited CSKA assistant coach Yevgeni Koreshkov for the idea. Koreshkov was formerly the head coach of Barys Astana from 2015-17 before becoming CSKA’s assistant in 2019. Koreshkov “sometimes used this and had some success,” Fedorov said. “We tried it once spontaneously” in November.
It’s unclear if pulling a goalie in OT would ever catch on in the NHL even though there are strategic times where it’d make sense, like during a final rush up the ice or when playing against a team in a different conference. The NHL’s smaller rink would make it harder to maintain possession or tire the other team’s defenders out. And the NHL’s better goaltending would make scoring harder even with an extra man, adding to the chance that the opposition would score on an empty net if a save is made.
The NHL foresaw this strategy possibly catching on years ago and instituted a rule in 2015-16 where a team that pulls its goaltender in overtime would surrender its regulation standings point (loser point) if they get scored on.
Clubs who pull their goaltender for an extra attacker during the overtime period (other than on a delayed penalty) will be subject to the potential forfeiture of their one (1) point earned for the tie at the end of regulation in the event the opposing team scores into the empty net.
On a bigger rink with weaker competition and presumably no penalty, Fedorov’s strategy makes more sense. But if there’s an NHL team that needs two standings points and has nothing to lose, there’s no reason not to try it.
Армейцы, помните четвероногих красавцев Рокки и Гайку, которые побывали у нас в гостях на ЦСКА АРЕНЕ и сфотографировались с Сергеем Федоровым?
Хотим поделиться хорошей новостью!
Рокки и Гайка нашли новые дома! Спасибо всем, кто помог в свершении этого чуда ❤️🙏 pic.twitter.com/IFLvEM8Eth
— ХК ЦСКА Москва (@hccska) December 7, 2021
This article has been updated since publication to include the NHL’s three-on-three rule about pulling a goaltender.
Translation by Igor Kleyner.
Headline photo: @hccska/Twitter
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
All original content on russianmachineneverbreaks.com is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)– unless otherwise stated or superseded by another license. You are free to share, copy, and remix this content so long as it is attributed, done for noncommercial purposes, and done so under a license similar to this one.