The empty netter isn’t something that we hockey fans usually celebrate. It’s the domain of stat-padders and struggling stars trying to get a goal any way possible. As Exhibit A, I submit the fact that Alex Ovechkin was zooming around Friday night in Washington with the Flyers net unoccupied (he didn’t score, by the way, thanks to some inspired desperation from Claude Giroux).
It’s slightly more acceptable for a player looking for a hat trick to be out there with the goalie pulled. Since it’s not easy for anyone not named Patrick Marleau (2013 version only) to score two goals in a game, much less three, we tend to give a pass to guys in those situations.
But if there’s such a thing as an empty netter that’s actually admirable, we just saw it last night in Detroit. Without a doubt, Henrik Zetterberg scored the most fantastic goal into a net not protected by a goalie that anyone has seen in a long time.
Notice I didn’t say unprotected net. The St. Louis Blues deserve some credit for not giving Zetterberg an easy path to his third career hat trick. In fact I’d go so far as to say this was also the most heavily contested empty netter I’ve seen live, what with T.J. Oshie lowering the shoulder to commit what would have been interference under normal circumstances and David Perron hustling back into the crease.
Keep in mind that Captain Z already had a pretty fantastic night, playing a part in every Red Wings goal. He certainly didn’t have to go for broke, especially with the degree of difficulty even higher since the Blues were on the power play.
But Zetterberg wasn’t letting any bodies, sticks, or anything else stop him. See for yourself:
As an added bonus, please note the sour look on the face of Ken Hitchcock. Yeah, he may still have been upset about the match penalty on David Backes, but I prefer to think that he’s just irritated that an empty netter for the ages was just scored against his team.
Sorry Ken. At least that’s one you’ll get to tell some wide-eyed rookies about someday.