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Numbers Game: Scoring 1st

How many times have you heard coaches in their pre-game interviews state that the team’s key to success in the game will be to score the first goal? Following that assertion, the coach will likely emphasize the importance of getting on the board first in order to shift the momentum in favour of his team. How important is it really to score first? Do teams actually do better when the pot the first goal of the game?

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Today’s Numbers Game reveals that in fact teams that score first are more likely to win the game. Collectively, teams that scored first in games last year ended up winning the game every 2 out of 3 times. That meant that teams that trailed first only won the game 33% of the time.

Further, teams that were above the league average (.6718) in winning percentage when they score the first goal of the game had, on average, 22.37 more points. Teams that had a winning percentage higher than league average for games in which they trailed first also enjoyed more success, averaging 26.13 more points.

Higher winning percentages for both scoring the first goal of the game and trailing first were also a very strong predictor of qualifying for the playoffs. Teams that qualified for the playoffs last year had a trail 1st % 14% higher than non-qualifiers and a score 1st % that was 12% higher. Teams that qualified for the playoffs also scored first in almost 8 more games compared to teams that did not qualify.

So when the Leafs play the Bruins this evening, I will be praying that they score first. As their record last year indicates, if the opposition scores first, they only win 31% of the time.

For Illegal Curve, I am Adam Gutkin.