The dreaded 2-goal lead

Posted on May 12, 2010

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I’m watching my beloved Montreal Canadiens trying to defend a 2-goal lead in a game 7. As Andrew Potter observes, the worst cliche in hockey is the idea that the 2-goal lead is the most dangerous lead to defend.

Now I know what [they’re] getting at: With a one-goal lead, a team keeps its focus, and with a three goal lead it would require a serious collapse to lose. But two goals? It’s close enough that you need to stay focused, but big enough to convince you that it is OK to relax. But is there any indication that a two goal lead is, objectively, a worse lead to have than a one- (or three-) goal lead? I find it hard to believe.

First thing to keep in mind is that all failed two-goal leads are also failed one-goal leads. That is, on its way to squandering a two-goal lead, a team must also squander a one-goal lead. So, it is analytically the case that the number of squandered one-goal leads is equal to, and empirically a certainty that it is greater than, the number of squandered two-goal leads.

In the course of writing and cutting-and-pasting, that 2-goal lead became a 3-goal lead. And game 7 became a series win for the Habs. And at the moment, that’s all I can care about.

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Posted in: hockey, punditry