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Hawk Talk: The New NHL?

Wednesday, 11.01.2006 / 2:52 PM / News
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Hawk Talk: The New NHL?

We take a break from some of the Hawk woes to examine what everyone likes to call the 'New NHL.'

Now, there are a ton of stats I can throw at you to explain the difference in the game pre-lockout and post-lockout, but I think we can all agree scoring is up and special teams are playing an even bigger role than ever. (Some say too much -- that's for another column).

However, there have come to be a couple of misconceptions that I think are interesting. They have to do with having the lead in a game and holding onto one. I, like you, have gotten used to saying "no lead is safe" in the new league.

That, actually, is not true. I was surprised by the numbers and I think you will be too. They are not as drastic as you may think.

In the 2003-04 season, before the rule changes, the winning percentage of teams scoring the first goal was .678. Since the beginning of last season, that has only dropped to .666. In other words for every 1,000 games played pre-lockout, the team scoring first won 678 times; now that number is 666. That isn't much of a drop-off.

Even more interesting is the 3rd period come-from-behind win, which was nearly non-existent before the rule changes. A .151 winning percentage existed in 2003-'04. Now it's a whopping .156.

Just five more times out of 1,000 games does a team come from behind in the 3rd period to win. Sounds strange, doesn't it? I guess perception does become reality because I never would have guessed that those numbers haven't changed as much as other stats in the "new" league.

So, what does this all mean? I believe it means protecting a lead now is the same as before, which is the same in just about every sport: play the game the way you did to get the lead.

Now, of course, as the game winds down a team will "reign" it in and be more defensive -- that's natural. But basically, the old adage about playing not to lose will lose you the game stands true.

There are exceptions -- New Jersey, Dallas, and Minnesota come to mind as teams in the past who would "lock it down" when leading into the 3rd. But for the most part, these teams -- especially Minnesota and New Jersey -- had that "trapping" mentality the whole game.

So while we think games and outcomes can change on a dime, the reality has stayed the same. Score early and dictate things from there. Get the lead and take your opponent out of THEIR game -- make him play desperate.

It was true then and it's true now. Ironically, I mention this in a week where the Hawks haven't had a lead.

Getting one may help change their fortunes.

Thanks to Stats, Inc. for assistance with this column.

Email Blackhawks pre- and post-game radio host Jesse Rogers at jrogers@chicagoblackhawks.com.