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Why Skaters Should Hold On To Their Sticks

Why Skaters Should Hold On To Their Sticks

With 11 goals coming from just 49 shots, neither Anders Nilsson, Cam Talbot nor Philipp Grubauer will look back too fondly on Friday’s wild game between Washington and Edmonton, in which the Capitals secured a 7-4 victory.

After trading chances through the first period, Washington scored three straight goals during the second period to take control, with Justin Williams goal at 31.49 putting the game beyond doubt as the Capitals opened up a three goal lead.

But Williams goal could have been entirely preventable were it not for a common defensive error from Nail Yakupov.

In the video we see Oilers goaltender Anders Nilsson loses his stick after the butt end is knocked by Edmonton defenceman Justin Schultz, who was tracking Capitals centre Evgeny Kuznetsov behind the net.

As the play developers, 22-year Yakupov attempts to pass his stick to Nilsson, but the Russians decision, although well meaning, simply creates more problems for the Oilers.

With Yakupov moving toward Nilsson, Washington defenceman Matt Niskanen is now left open to receive the pass from Kuznetsov – causing Edmonton’s defensive coverage to break down.

As Niskanen takes possession of the puck, Yakupov scrambles to get back in to defensive position, but in his desperation the stick hand off to Nilsson fails, compounding the situation.

Without his stick, Yakupov can do little but clog the shooting lane, leaving Niskanen free to make a pass as the Oilers forward is without the ability to properly disrupt the play at this point.

Nilsson is also left in a difficult position, as the Swede crouches to try and pick up Yakupov’s stick, he leaves the top of the net exposed allowing Williams to take full advantage and redirect Niskanen’s pass over the 25-year old’s left shoulder and in to the net.


Unfortunately for the winger, Yakupov’s best intentions become a key factor in a goal being scored, with Sportsnet’s Drew Remenda correctly opining that “you can do a lot more damage than help” in such situations.

By trying to pass Nilsson his stick, Yakupov has failed his defensive assignment and put his netminder at a disadvantage all at once; rather than sticking to Niskanen and perhaps forcing a turn over – at which point Nilsson or a team mate could have recovered his stick.

Rochester Americans’ coach Rudy Migay famously made Boston Bruins legend Gerry Cheevers practice without a stick, something many netminders now also try to do in training in order to better prepare themselves for the eventuality that they will, at some point, have to perform in a game situation without one.

Yakupov’s decision is something we occasionally see at the highest level still, and provides a perfect demonstration for young netminders and skaters of what can happen when they become distracted by something as simple as a lost stick.

About The Author

Rob McGregor

A member of the InGoal Magazine family since 2014, Rob is also Media Manager for the Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) in the UK and a former goaltender in Great Britain's third tier National League (NIHL).


  1. A Ninja

    Hi! I am a goalie. I would rather have a player’s stick than no stick. In my opinion, this goal resulted more from #77’s missed assignment. Just my thought….

  2. Steve

    @A Ninja I would much rather my d man have his stick and hopefully stop a play before it gets to me

    • Mike

      @Steve exactly!!! Although it was an extremely nice tip in by Williams , if Nilsson wasn’t fumbling to pick up a stick that he didn’t need to make that save, he would have been in a much better position to make a glove save!

  3. Ryan

    This article should be titled “Taking a D-man’s stick doesn’t always work out.”
    The whole article is based off of one play, with nothing to back up the ballsy title let alone a counter-argument. I still think that goalies are better off USING their defence’s stick, because we rely on our stick so much for balance, blocker positioning, corralling rebounds, and sealing the 5-hole. Sure, the odd time it doesn’t work out. The example you used is by far the worst-case scenario. But what about the times when it does work?
    In the end, it should be communicated between a goalie and his D that he does, or does not, want a stick passed back to him. Because personally, I’d take it almost every time.