Do NHL Teams Try To Sit On Leads

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Do NHL Teams Sit Back Or Is it A Big Push Back? — 

Is your favorite hockey team sitting back with the lead in the third period?  If so, do they really have a choice?

I always find it amusing when fans and media panic about the third period push back by teams trailing going into the third period.

BUT, when their team does it …. it’s a positive because they didn’t give up!!! 

This sentiment is prevalent with fans of all teams across the league.

I had to chuckle the other night when an NHL coach was lamenting the fact that he wasn’t all that fond of his teams play in the third period. 

Really Coach, do you actually think you have a choice?  How cute!!!  If I only had a dollar for every time a coach said that.   

Anybody that has spent any time behind a bench coaching, AND it doesn’t even matter at what level, this is NO surprise.  A 12 year old B Division coach has seen it, a 14 year old AAA coach has seen it, a College coach has seen it, a Junior coach has seen it and NHL coaches see it every night.

It’s not a revelation.  It’s human nature.  

My favorite is when the fans of the team fighting from behind state … “why didn’t they play like that the whole game”?  What?  Do you mean just play the top two lines and play the top four defencemen all game and tell them to pinch down on every loose puck in the offensive end with reckless abandon?  Every offensive defenseman’s dream strategy!  Lets get down by two or three goals and the coach will let us go balls to the wall the rest of the game!!!

Of course, you know I’m just being facetious. 

You probably wouldn’t have much left in the tank after a couple of games unless you have twelve “Top Six” forwards and a bunch of studs on the blueline.  Maybe the old Montreal Canadiens, maybe the New York Islanders in their prime, the Gretzky Oilers or the WHA Winnipeg Jets could get away with that but even that’s debatable. 

Top Three Reasons Teams Seem To Be Sitting On A Lead

1.)  Basically, what it comes down to is if the home team is losing, they are always going to give it a big push.  I don’t make the rules ~ it just happens.  

2.)  Teams with the lead don’t forecheck as hard giving the trailing team an easier time coming out of their own end. 

3.)  Sometimes it’s as simple as a couple penalties setting you back on your heels especially if you’re on the road.  When this happens it is sometimes very hard to change the momentum.  

4.)  Sometimes the trailing team is actually a better team even though the scoreboard says otherwise.    

Do coaches like it?  They say NO! (but I don’t believe them)  Do fans like it?  NO!  AND I’ll guarantee you the players aren’t loving it.   BUT, I’ll take a two goal lead into the third period and be accused of hanging on for dear life all day long if after sixty minute there is a big fat “W” posted more often than not. 

It beats the alternative of playing wide open and giving up late goals.

Bottom line is that when a team is trailing in the third period they shorten the bench.  They also gamble a little more with their defensemen.  Is this surprising to ANYBODY???  It’s amazing what “Top Six” NHL forwards on NHL teams can do for twenty minutes when the shackles are removed and the defence is given Carte Blanche on the offence.  There are reasons that this strategy hasn’t caught on full time.  NHL coaches already have enough gray hair, they don’t really need another ulcer and they don’t have the horses to institute such a bold strategy.  You also better have a goaltender that can stop two or three breakaways and three or four two on ones during this process.

Winning a hockey game by hanging on in the third period will do you a lot more good for NHL teams further down the road than winning a game in the sucky shootout.  Have I mentioned lately how much I abhor the shootout?  Sorry!!!  I’m on the verge of going off on another shootout rant.

It doesn’t matter how you win in regulation.  All that matters is you did.

The late Al Davis said it best.  “Just Win Baby!!!


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