clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Two-goal leads are still better than one, even for the Phoenix Coyotes

The Coyotes have flirted with a number of 2-0 leads this season with mixed results. However, those results are not as bad as it may seem.

It is trite, cliché and downright illogical, yet it's a common phrase whimsically thrown around the hockey world.

We have all heard it. The two-goal lead is the most dangerous lead in hockey. This phrase have seeped into the lexicon of Phoenix Coyotes fans lately, who watched their team lose three games in the last 23 days after having the "dreaded" 2-0 lead.

Fans are not the only ones that get sucked into this illogical trap; players on teams struggling to hold multi-goal leads fall into this trap as well.

"We almost don't want two goal leads the way we're playing with them right now," Washington Capitals forward Eric Fehr told Katie Carrera of the Washington Post earlier this month.

Beyond the fact that failed two-goal leads are also failed one-goal leads, there is no logical time a team would rather have a smaller lead. The numbers bear that out, even for a Coyotes team seemingly unable to capitalize on their early-game successes.

Date of 2-0 lead Did Coyotes score next goal? Did opponent come back to tie? To lead? Final Result
Oct. 15 No Yes Yes OTL
Oct. 22 No Yes No Win
Oct. 29 Yes No No Win
Nov. 16 Yes No No Win
Nov. 27 No No No Win
Dec. 10 No No No Win
Jan. 4 No Yes Yes Loss
Jan. 7 Yes No No Win
Jan. 18 No No No Win
Jan. 24 Yes No No Win
Jan. 28 Yes No No Win
Feb. 1 No No No Win
Feb. 7 N/A No No Win
Mar. 2 No Yes Yes Loss
Mar. 8 No Yes Yes Loss
Mar. 11 Yes No No Win
Mar. 15 No Yes No Win
Mar. 17 No Yes Yes Win
Mar. 20 No No No Win
Mar. 24 No Yes Yes OTL

While March's issues are concerning, the Coyotes have a .750 winning percentage (15-3-2) after securing a 2-0 lead. Compare that to Phoenix's .522 winning percentage (12-8-3) in games where they score first but do not get the second goal. The league average winning percentage when scoring first is .701, Phoenix's is .643. (Interesting to note: Phoenix is a perfect 6-0-0 in games in which they held two-goal leads that were not 2-0).

The Coyotes can still be better, as 10 NHL teams have an equal or greater than .750 winning percentage with 1-0 leads, but they are not a complete disaster with a two-goal lead.

Most teams play a more passive style of hockey with a multi-goal lead, with a high rate of success. Phoenix's problem lately is not just being too passive with the lead, but combining the lack of possession that comes with it (commonly referred to as "score effects" in the advanced stats world) with shoddy defense.

All teams have bad periods, but the Coyotes can't seem to find their way out of a bad period without letting in two goals. Defensive breakdowns deep in the defensive zone, combined with a lack of back-checking, leave their goaltender helpless and cause bad periods to become awful ones.

What does this all mean? While the Coyotes have given fans a roller coaster of a ride as of late, the team is still winning a large percentage of games they hold two-goal leads in, even if it's not as many as it should be.

The real problem? Phoenix does not extend its leads enough. Despite the fact the Coyotes score first 60 percent of the time, their winning percentage is a lowly 45 percent (9-8-3) in those games when they can not push that lead to two at some point.

Two-goal leads should not be feared by the Coyotes, or anyone else in the NHL, because two-goal leads are still far better than one.