I’ll start this post the same way I started my “on-ice trends” about goalies sucking with armpit-hole shots lately:
Just because we’ve seen a lot of this lately doesn’t necessarily indicate that something has changed in the NHL. I have no idea if there’s a connection between any of these events or not. But, it’s awfully suspicious.
Being focused early in a game is important, or so we’re told. So why are so many goals being scored on the first shift or two of games lately?
You would think that we’d see more “feel each other out” type play in the opening few minutes, but in the past few days, you can barely get your popcorn ready before the red light comes on.
Since Tuesday we’ve seen the following players score at these times of the first period:
Derek Engelland, 0:24
Patrick Hornqvist, 0:26
Sean Couturier, 1:43
Evgeni Malkin, 2:04
Dan Hamhuis, 2:20
…and there’s a sack of other ones in the first 3-4 minutes, including Rick Nash at 2:23. This isn’t some list for the year – like I said, this is over the span of a few days.
It seemed like the ideal situation for me to talk about proper mental preperation (after all, I was a visualization guy at naptime), but then I took a closer look at these goals and how it affected their teams:
Engelland, Penguins: lost
Hornqvist, Predators: lost
Couturier, Flyers: won
Malkin, Penguins: lost
Hamhuis, Canucks: lost. Badly.
Hmm. Didn’t see that coming.
My theory is that for years in the pre-lockout NHL, goals were hard to come by. Teams scraped by night after night, trying to grind a goal or two in, then hook and hold their way to the final buzzer. The first goal was crucial.
Today, goals come with a lot more ease, and the style of play has opened up without as much trapping or obstruction. It’s easier to come from behind.
It’s taken awhile for guys to adjust, but they aren’t pulling out their hair in preparation anymore, diligently making sure that they’re ready to go from the drop of the puck.
No player would ever say “Preparation? Oh no, I just jump into the game and then start to take it seriously,” but it could be happening subconsciouly. Maybe the first few minutes of a game is suddenly the best time to pounce on your opponent who still hasn’t flipped the switch on. Maybe as you move towards the mid-season lull guys stop taking every game as seriously, so they get spanked out of the gate.
Or….maybe it’s just a random string of events that just happend to take place in short amount of days.
Yeah. That’s probably it.