Which NHL teams are the best and worst closers?
On Wednesday night, the Boston Bruins scored three second-period goals against the Montreal Canadiens. The referees decided to play another 20 minutes, even though the game was effectively over ...
It was the 34th time in 65 games this season in which the Bruins entered the third period with a lead. They’ve won 32 of those games, including last night’s 4-1 victory over the Habs. It was the nearly same story last season: The Bruins had a lead after two periods in 23 of their 48 games, although they were a bit more vulnerable: Losing four games in regulation and four games in overtime.
That said: 47-6-4 in their last 113 games when leading after two periods, which they’ve done 57 times. The old line from “Glengarry Glen Ross” from Alec Baldwin was that “coffee is for closers”; were that the case, then the Boston Bruins are practically Starbucks.
OK, maybe they're Caribou Coffee; the Los Angeles Kings, going 21-0-0 this season when leading after two periods, are Starbucks.
I decided to look back at the last two seasons – 2013-14 and our wonderfully truncated 2013 season – to get a sense of which teams own the most leads entering the third and which teams are able to avoid opponents’ rallies in the final 20 minutes. The two-season sample comes with the caveats that personnel on the ice and behind the benches can change from year to year, but I found some consistency for most teams in their performances.
Here’s a glimpse, through Wednesday’s games, of the last two seasons. The 2013-14 closer numbers are here.
A few thoughts on the numbers, obvious and otherwise:
* To the surprise of no one, 12 of the top 13 teams in leading games after two periods are currently in a playoff seed, with Detroit two points out of a playoff spot in the East.
* The Anaheim Ducks are 33-1-2 when leading after two periods this season, but they’re 17th in the league with 58 goals in the third period. The trick? They’re the second-best second-period goal-scoring team in the league with 82 goals, behind Chicago’s 86 goals.
* The best defensive teams in the third period this season? The St. Louis Blues (43 goals against), Boston Bruins (45 goals against) and the Los Angeles Kings (46 goals against).
* The Kings are currently the only team yet to lose a game this season when leading after two periods. They were 19-1-2 last season. Ridiculous.
* The New York Rangers are an interesting study here. They’ve only had a third-period lead in 39 of their last 114 games; but when they get it, they're lights-out: Winning 37 of 39 games. Something something Henrik Lundqvist something …
* Since they’re tied at the hip: The Rangers went 16-0-0 under John Tortorella last season when leading after two periods; Vancouver was 18-2-3 under Alain Vigneault last season when leading after two. This season, the Rangers are 21-1-1 under Vigneault and the Canucks are 17-5-2 under Torts.
* As you can see, neither the Florida Panthers nor the Buffalo Sabres have lost a game in regulation when leading into the third period. The problem being that they’re tied for last in games in which they’re leading after two with 21 in their last 113.
* The two teams have lost the most games in the last two seasons after leading into the third: The New York Islanders (8 losses and six overtime losses in 39 games) and the Detroit Red Wings, who have 12 losses in total and seven in overtime in 52 games.
* Sigh … the Islanders. The Islanders are the only team in the NHL this season with a winning percentage of under .500 for games in which they’re leading after two periods: 9-6-5, for a .450 winning percentage.
If the Islanders don’t turn this around, they’re headed for infamy. No team since the 2005 lockout has finished with a record below .500 when leading after two periods. The 2005-06 St. Louis Blues were 13-8-5 (.500). Every other team has cleared it.
No coffee for you, New York Islanders … although it should be said that they do lead the NHL in comeback wins after trailing for the first 40 minutes with eight.
* The worst comeback team in the NHL? The Detroit Red Wings, going 1-13-2 (.063) when trailing after two. Please insert your clichéd “old tired team” gag here.