Friday, September 15, 2006

Game Winning Goals

GW is a stat in hockey. Over the course of the upcoming NHL season, as you're watching games, and I know you'll be watching games, you will undoubtedly be told that so-and-so has X number of game winning goals, either in that season alone, or in their career, or, if you're lucky, both! Wow, you'll think. That player is clutch. However, dig deeper and you'll realize that maybe that player isn't as clutch as you thought him to be. You see, the way game winners are decided makes the stat pretty meaningless. If a game ends 5-3, they just determine whoever scored the 4th goal for the winning side and give it to them. If 4-1, they look for who scored the 2nd goal for the winning side. Understand?

Now, imagine the Canucks and the Oilers are playing, and it's a 1-1 game. Linden scores (woo-hoo!) and it's now 2-1 Canucks. That goal opened the floodgates and the Canucks scores 4 more goals to make it 6-1. The Oilers have essentially stopped trying and Morrison adds another to make it 7-1 at the end of the second. During the second intermission the Oilers get an earful from their coach and start the third period with purposeful play. They score 5 goals to make it 7-6, but can't finish the comeback. Canucks win. Who gets the game winner? Morrison. The goal he scored was anything but clutch. It was a stat padder at the time.

I believe it was Dan Russell who I first heard propose the idea that the game winner should be given to the player who gives their team the lead that they don't relinquish. In this case, Linden. Once the 'Nucks had the 2-1 lead, they were always in the lead.

Another hypothetical example. Another tie game. This time, let's say it's 3-3. Canucks vs Flames. Two minutes to go in the game, Daniel Sedin scores on a clutch end-to-end rush (okay fine, it was off the cycle), and the Canucks are up 4-3. The Flames pull their tender, and Henrik Sedin scores an easy emptynetter. 5-3 Canucks. The Flames, still with the net empty, pour it on and score to make it 5-4. Game ends. Henrik, with his emptynetter is given the game winner.

So until the NHL changes the way the GW stat is recorded, I encourage you to ignore it like I do. Be like me, you know you wanna.

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