What’s the most dangerous lead in hockey? One blogger figured it out

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You heard it once, you heard it a million times. A team would get out to a two or three goal lead and someone, somewhere be it at the bar or on the Internet would say, “that’s the most dangerous lead in hockey.” Since it was almost always a flippant remark and never taken seriously unless the team in front blew the game, you wouldn’t have another thought about it until later.

If you wondered if some teams were better or worse than others at giving up a seemingly big lead, there’s one blogger who went back through all of last season’s games to figure out just what, exactly, the most dangerous lead in hockey was. The guys at PuckScene.com went through all of last season’s regular season results and figured out just what kind of cushion was the most perilous for a team to have. Their results aren’t exactly shocking in some ways and rather eye-opening in others.

For the purposes of their study, they looked at things this way:

For the purpose of this analysis, a lead is considered the maximum goal margin before the game reverts to a tie. For instance, if a team starts a game with a 3-0 lead but wins the game 4-2, the lead is considered a three-goal lead because that was the maximum lead margin. A lead is considered surrendered whenever a game reverts to a tie. For instance, if one team jumps out to a 3-0 lead but becomes a 5-5 tie, that lead has been surrendered. All leads include regulation only, as it is impossible to surrender an overtime lead.

Simple enough for us. Also keep in mind that surrendering the lead doesn’t necessarily mean losing the game either.

As you might expect, the absolute most dangerous lead in hockey is the one-goal lead as 85.35% of those were surrendered. That means either a game was tied up or the opponent took the lead back from them. For instance, the Islanders were the worst team in the NHL with a one-goal lead as they gave it back every time last season. The Islanders had to get ahead by more than two goals according to Puck Scene’s numbers as they gave up a two goal lead 42% of the time they had one of those. They were flawless when up three or more.

As for the rest of the NHL, a two goal lead was given up 39.52% according to their results. While a one-goal lead is always perilous, seeing a two-goal lead given up nearly four out of every ten times is incredible. Think of the “dead puck” era when a two-goal lead essentially meant the game was over. Now? Not so much. Of the 463 times a team held a two-goal advantage, 183 times that team gave it up.

While Florida was the worst team in the NHL with a two-goal lead, surrendering them at a 77.78% rate, Pittsburgh was in the top (bottom?) five giving up a two-goal lead 57.14% of the time. Two playoff teams were in the top five with Anaheim giving up the two-goal lead 71.43% of the time and joining Pittsburgh in that ignominy.

Even a three-goal lead had its perils last season as Puck Scene’s analysis shows that a three-goal lead was given up 10.34% (30 out of 290 times). Leads of four goals or more were lost a mere 0.91% of the time (2 out of 219). Of those two times, Montreal recovered after blowing a 4-0 lead against Calgary in January to beat the Flames 5-4 in overtime. The Penguins survived blowing a 4-0 lead to Detroit back in March to beat the Red Wings 5-4 in a shootout.

Colorado had the hardest time holding leads, period, and made their fans cringe any time they had the lead as they gave up a one-goal lead 94.87% of the time, a two-goal lead 42.86% of the time and a three-goal lead at a 40% rate. Even if that’s two times out of five, that’s two times too many. The NHL’s worst team, Edmonton, was equally terrifying with a lead losing a one-goal lead at a 88.89% rate and a two-goal lead 50% of the time.

Winnipeg fans might have to invest in Pepto Bismol next year if the Jets don’t improve on their final Thrashers days as they gave away a one-goal lead 90% of the time and fared no better with a two-goal lead (61.54%) nor a three-goal advantage (20%).

Obviously these numbers have no bearing on how things will play out next year, but the next time you hear a fan joking around about how the two goal lead is the scariest in the NHL… They’re not too far off in how right they are, just remind them that it could be worse. It could be a one-goal lead.

Chris Neil retires an Ottawa Senators lifer

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Chris Neil announced his retirement from the NHL on Thursday after 1,206 games, all with the Ottawa Senators franchise.

“Chris Neil exemplifies the best qualities of both our city and the Senators franchise,” said Senators owner Eugene Melnyk. “His career personified grit, drive and resilience; there was never a day that he was not there for his teammates. Chris earned everything he achieved in the league through his hard work and dedication to the game and he will go down in history as one of the great character players to ever wear the Senators jersey.”

It won’t be long before the 38-year-old Neil, a 1998 sixth-round pick, gets to put on a Senators jersey again. He’ll participate in this weekend’s Senators alumni game as the city celebrates the NHL 100 Classic at Lansdowne Park against the Montreal Canadiens.

While Neil had his offensive moments — he finished with 112 career goals and reached double digits in that category five times — he was known as an agitator and one not afraid to drop the gloves. HockeyFights.com has him at over 150 career regular season fights and he leaves the game as the franchise’s all-time leader in penalty minutes with 2,522.

Neil’s role diminished last season under Guy Boucher and the Senators decided against re-signing him over the summer. After seeking a new gig and turning down a reported PTO offer from the Montreal Canadiens, he chose to hang them up.

“I miss playing the games. Those are the fun times and that’s what you put all the hard work in for,” Neil said. “For me, I don’t miss the grind of the day-to-day that goes on behind the scenes, but I truly do miss being there with the guys. That’s the fun part. That’s something I’ll always have to look back on.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Prior’s knack with goalies put to test in Vegas

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Dave Prior has a knack for fast-tracking goalies to the NHL.

The analytical and strategic mind that helped draft and develop 2016 Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby in Washington was brought to Vegas with hopes he would not only work with veteran Marc-Andre Fleury but also develop the fledgling franchise’s younger netminders.

Little did Prior know his expertise would be so thoroughly put to the test during the first two months of the season.

After Fleury went down with a concussion Oct. 13 and missed the next 25 games, the expansion Golden Knights have enjoyed a historic start thanks in part to four goalies who had seen action in two combined NHL games before this season.

Malcolm Subban, Maxime Lagace and Oscar Dansk saw most of the action, while Dylan Ferguson spent just over nine minutes between the pipes.

And though Fleury lost in his 696th career start Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes in his long-anticipated return, Vegas is still in second place in the Pacific Division with 40 points, three behind the Los Angeles Kings.

”It’s been a fascinating story for me as a coach because I haven’t been challenged in this way before,” Prior said. ”I don’t think I’ve approached it any different than I have tasks in the past. You’re not usually confronted with replacing one guy after another after another. I had a lot of input into the goaltenders that we signed here and took in the expansion draft.

”The goalies didn’t let me down. I steered them in the direction, but they’ve done all the work.”

The five goalies have a combined .905 save percentage, led by Subban, whose .924 save percentage ranks eighth among all goaltenders with a minimum 10 games played. Among goalies who have played at least four games, Dansk leads the league with a .946 save percentage and Fleury is ninth at .930.

Prior said the development of his goaltending prospects began with a philosophical approach in training camp. He knew the chemistry was far from what he wanted, but he was also pleased they had bought into the system and that he had earned their trust.

”When these opportunities came, it sort of was an opportunity to accelerate the process,” Prior said. ”You don’t usually get to train guys in this environment that are in the minors. I believed they had the upside to become NHL goaltenders. I was just hoping the step they were going to be good enough to make it to No. 1 in the American (Hockey) League first, let alone be thrown into being the guy who had to play in the NHL. They worked really hard and bought in and we managed to survive the loss of Marc-Andre.”

Without Fleury, the Golden Knights were 16-8-1, including a stellar 7-1-0 against Pacific Division opponents.

Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said he’s left the goaltenders alone, avoiding interfering with what Prior instilled during training camp.

”I don’t know how he does it. He spends a lot of time in video with these guys, more than I’ve seen in the past,” Gallant said. ”He’s just focused on them doing the right things and playing the right way. … He wants to get the best from every goaltender and he gets the best confidence of every goaltender.”

Prior acknowledged Gallant’s hands-off approach and said it’s made it easier to work with Fleury, develop Subban and teach the younger players.

”I still have always gone about my job with the fact that I am the person sort of establishing how we’re going to play,” Prior said. ”When you’re having someone second-guess your approach, it makes it more difficult. I appreciate his hands off. I think if we were failing he may be a little more involved, but the goaltenders have done a good job.”

PHT Morning Skate: Melnyk denies Senators sale; Kopitar has Hart

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Eugene Melnyk denied rumors that he was selling the Ottawa Senators. “Let me set the record straight. I have no idea how a reporter fabricated a fiction about my selling the team. These stories pop up out of nowhere probably from someone ‘hearing something’.” [Ottawa Sun]

• A fascinating oral history of the inaugural season of these Senators. [Sportsnet]

• The KHL initially announced they would be allowing its players to participate in the PyeongChang Olympics, then retracted it. So for now, we still wait to see what will happen. [NBC Olympics]

• Will the “Olympic Athletes from Russia” hockey team wear new jerseys? That’s still a question that lingers. “There’s a discussion around the [Russia] uniform,” said Roman Rotenberg, the Russian federation’s senior vice president. “It’s been produced already and there are certain technical questions.” [NBC Olympics]

Anze Kopitar, now healthy, is playing his way into the Hart Trophy discussion. [FanRag Sports]

Marc-Andre Fleury on facing his old team tonight: “The Cup champs, it’s a good challenge for our team. I’d like to do my part to beat them.” [Post-Gazette]

• The board game that NHL players love to play on the road? Risk, just like Kramer and Newman. Ukraine not weak! [Sports Illustrated]

• Read this important story on former NHLer Matt Johnson, who is now homeless and missing. [TSN]

• How a young girl from Barbados became a huge Florida Panthers fan. [Miami Herald]

• A really cool graphical look at the history of Indianapolis hockey jerseys. [The Sin Bin]

• How the PyeongChang Olympics will affect NCAA hockey. [College Hockey News]

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Buzzer: Senators win, Subban from center, Lehtonen notches 300th win

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Players of the Night: 

Bobby Ryan, Ottawa Senators: It’s been a struggle for Ryan this season. He came into the game with just as single goal in 21 games but left with two in 22 while also adding an assist to help the Senators avoid a six-game losing streak.

Tyler Pitlick, Dallas Stars: Pitlick scored twice, bookending Dallas’s five goals in a 5-2 win against the New York Islanders.

P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators: If you continue reading (and you should) you will see Subban’s goal that came from quite a distance. The defenseman notched two in a ___ win against the Vancouver Canucks, powering the Preds to their ninth win in their past 12 games.

Highlights of the Night: 

Brad Marchand fought off Mike Green, and then did this to win in overtime:

Dylan Larkin. Breakway. Shorthanded. Backhand.

Blunder of the Night: 

Yikes, Anders Nilsson. Bravo, P.K.

Factoids of the Night: 

Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen killed two birds with one stone on Wednesday:

Filip Forsberg accomplished an impressive feat for the second time in his career.

MISC: 

Scores: 

Senators 3, Rangers 2

Stars 5, Islanders 2

Bruins 3, Red Wings 2 (OT)

Predators 7, Canucks 1


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck