The Yellow Shot

Steve Valiquette goes in-depth to explain what exactly a "yellow shot" is and how goalies can position themselves to stop them.


One of the topics that I covered in my initial post with was the yellow shot.

A yellow shot is defined as an area that is created by starting from the center of the net and establishing a line towards where the boards and center line connect. At the intersection of where this and the vertical Royal Road intersect, they connect to form a triangle.

A yellow shot occurs when a red shot takes place inside this triangle. These shots are extremely rare because an NHL defense is specifically designed to take these opportunities away. It isn’t easy to skate into this area without being forced to cut laterally or wide, and because of this, they typically occur only once or twice every 2-3 games.

Even though they are essentially red in nature and allow goaltenders to set depth and angle with clear sight, the shot is classified as yellow because of the location. This area creates issues for the goaltender because a shot with pace gives a goaltender very little reaction time. Its success rate is only 16%.

Even though the goaltender doesn’t need to transition, the shot creates different obstacles because of human limitations. It creates cognitive and physical issues as the read and reaction time from this area far exceed the human reaction time of 200 milliseconds. Thus, goalies tend to rely on anticipation to stop these chances.

Anticipation guess and anticipation know.

Goaltenders face hundreds of thousands of shots during their careers; they use this internal database to solve the problems they are faced with. Anticipation involves teasing an opening and taking it away by using the database to assess the shooters intentions and removing the perceived threat. Anticipation guess involves a goaltender making an educated guess and hoping for the preferred outcome. When it works, the goaltender understands he got lucky.

When confronted with yellow opportunities goaltenders have two decisions to make. Creating the proper depth for the best chance to stop the puck and deciding on the proper spacing required to react to the release off the shooters blade.

Henrik Lundqvist’s inside out style is based on creating shorter routes to the puck, which provides him with more reaction time. I studied his style versus the extreme opposite end of the spectrum in Jonathan Quick during the Cup Final last season. Whereas Lundqvist prefers to stand 4 feet from the goal line (illustrated in the above photo), Quick generally prefers to touch the white ice and play a much more aggressive 8 foot depth. This gives him less reaction time, but Quick prefers to trade off reaction time for more blocking space. This exposes him to long routes to recover for backdoor opportunities. Where Quick is comfortable using his athleticism to bridge these distance gaps, Lundqvist uses his athleticism by staying deep, keeping his feet and reacting to the shot. A more conventional depth and one you see used more regularly by NHL goaltenders, is meeting the distance half way at 6 feet.

One of the most interesting aspects of the yellow shot is how often these shots are used in practice from youth leagues all the way to the pros. Kevin Woodley tackled the inefficiency of practice for goaltender recently on

“In practice, shooters repeatedly get time and space to shoot from spots, and in situations, they might be lucky to get once or twice a season. These opportunities come without the sense of urgency associated with the backchecking pressure of a game.”

Coaches continually allow their forwards to penetrate the yellow area untouched and fire chance after chance on a goaltender who will see 40-50 of them in an NHL season. It’s an inefficient way to train your forwards and goaltenders. Switching the focusing to creating green shots on offense and limiting red shots on defense would create a better learning environment for everyone involved.