Friday, February 21, 2014

The dreaded two goal lead

     There's a harebrained notion that's held as gospel by otherwise reasonable people that the two goal lead is the worst lead in hockey.  Never mind that it's a fundamentally flawed premise that an advantage of any kind is a bad thing.  Every once in a while, something transpires that adherents point to as proof of their cockamamie theory, like the Americans blowing a late 2-0 lead and losing 3-2 in overtime to Canada in the women's gold medal game at the Olympics.         
     The idea of advantage as a recipe for disaster seems to be exclusive to hockey. Football coaches play for the two score lead and the significant psychological cushion it provides.  In baseball, being up by two means you have what's called an insurance run, a bit of phraseology that hardly bespeaks a doomsday scenario.  If you're up two sets to none in women's pro tennis, you've already won the match.  These are logically considered to be fortuitous circumstances. 
     Proponents of the dreaded two goal lead theory point to a natural tendency for a team to take its foot off the gas, but there's nothing natural about it.  In today's game, it's a deliberate strategy to retreat into a defensive shell, rather than press the advantage.  If the two goal lead is in fact some kind of formula for catastrophe, it's not a naturally-occurring phenomenon.  It's a self-fulfilling prophecy born of a conservative mentality that caters to caution over killer instinct. 
   But mostly, it's a load of hooey.

1 comment:

  1. Here's my theory of why the d2gl is a thing. If your team is outplaying the other team and amasses a 2gl on their way to a comfortable 5-1 victory, you don't really notice the 2gl. However, if you are not really outplaying the opposition but get a 2gl, a comeback is more likely than in the first scenario. And if that comeback happens, well, there's the d2gl for you (so the thinking goes). In a nutshell, blown 2gl are much more salient and, therefore, it only takes a few to cement in your mind the danger they pose (as statistically unlikely as it is.)