Ryan Johansen, Artem Anisimov, Marc-Andre Fleury, Brooks Orpik, Tanner Glass, Craig Adams

On ‘score effects,’ and the challenges of playing with the lead


If you haven’t heard the term “score effects” before, you’re getting a great example of the phenomenon in the Pittsburgh-Columbus series, where it seems the first key to winning is falling behind by two or three goals.

Per Extra Skater, here are how Games 3 and 4 played out in terms of shot attempts:

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It’s not hard to see what happened in both games. The team that fell behind was the one that attacked and dominated possession in the latter stages, while the team that took the lead went into a defensive shell.

This is typical in hockey. We see the same sort of thing in football, when a team with the lead employs a prevent defense and allows the opposition to do pretty much anything but score. Hang back. Don’t blitz. Hope the clock runs out.

But is it a good strategy? Or, in other words, as much as it’s intuitive to avoid things like turnovers at the opposition blue line when you’re playing with a lead, is dumping it deep — essentially handing possession back over — and making sure you’re in good defensive position really the smart play?

Another question: even if a coach tells his players to keep attacking and avoid playing scared — and coaches definitely tell their players this at times– how big a psychological challenge is it for players to actually do it? After all, nobody wants to be the guy who makes the boneheaded turnover that costs his team the game. Best to just dump it in. Or if you’re in your own end, chip it out. Nothing wrong with living to fight another day. Right?

Obviously, this is not a new debate in hockey. How to play with the lead has been a consideration since, well, probably since the first lead was taken. What’s different now, though, compared to maybe 10 years ago is there’s all sorts of statistical evidence to show coaches exactly what happens when a team goes into a defensive shell.

And make no mistake, there are NHL coaches and general managers who look at these stats. Not all of them maybe, but definitely some. Take the Minnesota Wild, who reportedly endeavored this season to stop dumping the puck in so much after considering some statistical analysis which concluded that carrying the puck in — even if it brought more risk into the equation — was the optimal way to enter the zone.

“You don’t need to take any chances when you’ve got a lead,” said Pittsburgh forward Craig Adams. “At the same time, you can’t sit back. That tends to give you more problems than if you just stick with your game. We did that a bit [Wednesday], especially in the second period. We were in our end way too much. We still want to get a lead.”

Game 5 goes Saturday in Pittsburgh.

Alexei Emelin was ejected for this hit on Matt Calvert

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Alexei Emelin has been in and out of the Montreal Canadiens lineup, but this wasn’t the way they wanted him to keep his legs fresh.

The hard-hitting defenseman received a game misconduct and five-minute major penalty for a late hit on Columbus Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert on Tuesday.

So far, it sounds like Calvert may be OK.

You can see video of that hit above, as well as a GIF of the infraction via My Regular Face.

Many believe that Emelin should not have been ejected.

Injuries continue to dog Lupul as Leafs place him on IR

Joffrey Lupul
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Injuries have been a regular problem for Joffrey Lupul for much of his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and it doesn’t look like that’s changing in 2015-16.

The team placed him on injured reserve retroactive to Nov. 28, calling up Rich Clune in the process.

This IR stint means that Lupul will miss at least three games for Toronto.

From the sound of things, it’s a nagging issue, as NHL.com notes.

“He’s been having the same problem here for a bit,” Mike Babcock told media members on Sunday. “He doesn’t seem to be getting the power back that they thought, so we’re just trying to monitor it the best we can.”

Leafs Nation points out that Lupul has missed about one-third of Toronto’s contests since suffering a separated shoulder in April 2012.

At 32, there’s still time for Lupul to fight through this, although injuries generally accumulate with age.

WATCH LIVE: Wild at Blackhawks; Penguins at Sharks

Scott Darling, Charlie Coyle
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Will Ryan Suter say something foolish during tonight’s game? Is Brent Burns‘ beard so long that it’s finally starting to scrape the ice?

We’ll find out the answer to those questions and more during Tuesday’s NBCSN doubleheader.

Need to follow the two games online? Never fear.

Game 1: Minnesota Wild at Chicago Blackhawks


Game 2: Pittsburgh Penguins at San Jose Sharks


Bolland back in, Bjugstad out with injury for Panthers

Evgeny Medvedev, Nick Bjugstad
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Message sent or not via healthy scratches or not, Dave Bolland returns to the Florida Panthers mix on Tuesday.

Unfortunately for the Panthers, it’s maybe not under the most ideal circumstances, as part of the explanation for his return is Nick Bjugstad‘s absence.

The Miami Herald’s George Richards reports that Bjugstad is out tonight against the St. Louis Blues with an upper-body injury that he suffered during a Monday practice.

In fact, as you can see in the tweet above, the young forward was sent home because of the injury.

This forces some shuffling, with Vincent Trocheck moving up to the second line while Bolland centers the third combo as usual.

The Panthers are currently on a two-game winning streak and visit St. Louis as the second date in a five-game road trip.

This is also the early part of a span in which they play nine of 10 games on the road (counting Sunday’s away win), so a prolonged absence from Bjugstad could sting that much more.