How is the Last Change in Hockey

How is the Last Change in Hockey?

Hey, hockey fans! You have definitely watched lots of hockey games and probably noticed one particular scene for sure. There is a distinct order change, one team substitutes before the others. However, for the last change: 

The last change is the advantage provided to the home team, enabling them to send their players on and make final changes after the opposing team deploys its players. This rule allows the home team coaches to make a strategy and send the match-up players against the others either in the attacking or defensive zone.

When Does Last Change Work or Happen?

NHL teams substitute their ice players with bench players in two cases:

  1. After the game stoppage
  2. During the course of the play

The Line Change official 82.1 NHL rule states that: 

After the play stoppage, the visiting team shall place its line players on the ice for the play and no change is allowed until the play resumes. The home team then make their strategic change of players on the ice. Except for the offside call or during icing, there will be no substitution which results in a game delay. 

At the time of stoppage of play, the linesman walks into the ice centre, faces the visiting team and raises his arms signalling them to make the player’s substitution within five seconds. When you watch the hockey game, you will see the change happens fluidly not like of robotic machine process.

After the visiting team substation, the linesman lowers his arm and does the same with the home team. Now the home team will change its players having the same time of five seconds. Since, the home team changes last, that’s what is named the ‘last change’.

If there is a delay by any team in changing players in the designated time, then the linesman is permitted to stop the remaining players on the ice but this seldom happens as players are fast enough to play. After this change no substitution is allowed until the faceoff with the puck is in play on safe or with the case of the penalty before faceoff. 

How The Last Change Gives Advantage?        

The last change is like a special advantage for the home team as it allows coaches to tailor their strategies up and send their best forward line and defensemen to match the other team’s best offensive players.

Understand it like this, in basketball, the manager will bring the best pitcher against the best batter. Similarly, the hockey coaches will place their best defence and forward lineups against the best lineups of the other team.

The home team get the advantage of substitution when on defence or offence in between each game stoppage. In a power play, the team brings out their best offensive men to score more and while on a penalty when they are shorthanded, the home team also uses this chance to substitute their best defensemen to counteract the away team playing.

Almost every team have players deemed as ‘shutdown defensemen’ or ‘shutdown forward’. These are the most reliable players that coaches deploy against the top offensive and defensemen of the opposing team. 

The last change advantage becomes effective only when coaches can forecast what type of game is coming up and what type of players are coming so, they can counter appropriately with either personnel substitution or an entire changing of gaming plan.     

How Does The Last Change Give Protection To The Players? 

Coaches use the last chance to benefit the protection of players who have past injuries or are suspected to get hurt. Also to protect the inexperienced or weaker players to face other team top players as not every player’s skill or talent is equal to other top-rated players. To protect these players, the coaches always try to put them in positions where they will not get exposed or change them in the last change so that the away team will be able to get the hint of them and use it to their advantage. 

For example, if one team lines up its defensemen, the coaches will make sure that they will not on the ice at the same time when there is Connor McDavid or Sidney Crosby. These superstars are so experts in their game and know well whom they are playing against. If they get the hint of weak players or their vulnerability, they will use it maximum to their benefit and exploits others’ weakness.

Another way of last change protection is to make players less tired and give more energy to other significant parts of the game, for instance, power play and penalty kill.

Consider, if team A top centre counters team B’s top centre during overtime, it will get tired quickly from staying on the ice longer and then they will be prone to mistakes.

So, the last change gives them the chance to change and none of the team will feel fatigued as they will be playing with their equals on the ice. Thus, it is to increase the scoring chances of players while considering the feelings in check!

How Does The Last Change Affect The Win Or Loss? 

What does the last change have to do with a win or lose? Or does it matters for winning a game? 

No, there is no surety of winning a game. The last change does give the home team a quality advantage but it’s not guaranteed that they will win. From the data standpoint, this variable is immeasurable. But with the experience and witness, it’s not easy to discuss against being there has no effect.

There might be a clear air of guessing win when there is a shutdown of the great offensive player and there is least opportunity to score. It is often to see that the best offensive players have a bad scoring graph on the way when playing at home. The simple reason is that they have to play with equal top defensive players of other teams. Henceforth, both give tough times to each other which makes one of the scores low. 

That is why to say that matching up your best defensive player against the top offensive player is key to have the game! 

The Bottom Line on How is the Last Change in Hockey?

The last change brings a decisive moment for the home team to come up with strategic players and win a game. The home team also get the chance to bring fresh legs to play and give others rest during the line change. It’s the time for the home team to make good strategical changes to defend or attack the opposing team players.   

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