The 2-Goal Lead: Mystical, Magical, & Still the Most Dangerous in Hockey

Posted May 11, 2012

Despite Ovi's wishes, divine intervention in hockey is traditionally limited to those with proper playoff beards (Photo Credit: M. Richter)

It’s considered one of the better known “truths” of hockey – a two-goal lead is the most dangerous you can have.  It provides a false sense of security, an “insurance” goal that means a mistake can be made without costing the game.  Not to say that a two-goal lead can’t be useful, because any lead is never a bad thing.  This past Monday, that eight second margin for error would have been all the Capitals needed to secure the win.

After Wednesday’s Game 6 against the Rangers, the 28+ minutes of 2-0 lead held by the Caps was one of the main topics of conversation in the locker room.  Joel Ward was measured in his praise of the accomplishment, quick to point out the trepidation that hit when Marian Gaborik scored late in the third and provided a potential springboard for another OT push.

Karl Alzner, on the other hand, looked like a kid on Christmas morning when asked how it felt to have a little breathing room.  In what he described as a “near perfect game,” he did acknowledge that play grew sloppy near the end of the third, citing specifically the incidence of too many casual icings on the part of the Caps.  However, even a healthy dose of self-criticism failed to put a damper on his enthusiasm.

As has been noted before, this has been a post-season full of single-goal games.  The Capitals have won seven single-goal games, and they’ve lost five.  The only exception was the two-goal loss to the Rangers that started the current series.  Thus, it’s understandable why an extended two-goal lead would be cause for celebration on the Capitals bench.  Not only has the team that scored first been ever the victor, but prior to that blissful 28 minutes, the Caps had held a 2-goal lead for a whopping three minutes during the entire 2012 playoff run.

The three post-playoff call-ups from the Hershey Bears can attest to how quickly a two-goal window can be closed.  On April 28, the Baby Penguins scored twice in less than eight seconds in what would eventually be the Game 5 victory that put an end to the Hershey Bears’ Calder Cup aspirations for this year.

One of the appeals of hockey is that it’s a fast-moving sport.  A single blown face-off can close a seemingly insurmountable gap on the scoreboard, and the winds of fate can shift in a heartbeat.  With two talented goalies backstopping the Caps and Rangers, a two-goal lead for any length of time is a nod of favor from the hockey gods.  Both teams have seen such fortune during the series, and going into tomorrow night it’s  a roll of the dice when it comes to the outcome.

Anyone want to place odds that it’s a one-goal game?