3-point games more common when East meets West | Hockey | CBC Sports

NHL3-point games more common when East meets West

Posted: Monday, March 5, 2012 | 10:51 AM

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For the second straight season that we've tracked it, games go beyond 60 minutes at a much higher rate when featuring clubs from opposing conferences than those from the same conference.

The Phoenix Coyotes and Pittsburgh Penguins will face off Monday night, one of about only 30 interconference games remaining on the NHL schedule.

The focus will increasingly turn to clashes between clubs within the same conference towards the final regular season date of April 7, on which all 30 teams will be in action.

For the second straight season that we've tracked it, games go beyond 60 minutes at a much higher rate when featuring clubs from opposing conferences than those from the same conference.

We were prompted to crunch the numbers again after Pierre LeBrun's ESPN column on Friday, which indicated that there was little support for a 3-2-1 point system, which would seemingly provide more motivation on a regulation win (three points) than one in overtime or shootout (which would result in two points).

Proponents of the current system, i.e. most NHL GMs, always argue that the standings under a 3-2-1 would shake out basically the same with the exception of one or two placings.

But as LeBrun points out, there's no way of knowing how teams would approach games under a 3-2-1 system. The extra point could be a really effective carrot - after all, a three-point swing in a division game is a far cry from a one-point swing.

Which brings us back to interconference games.

So far this season, about 31 per cent of contests pitting Western with Eastern Conference clubs go into an extra session.

That figure is about 21 percent for intraconference games. About 60 per cent of the remaining intraconference games would have to beyond 60 minutes to reach a similar percentage.(For the record, the East has featured a handful more 60-65 minute games than the West).

Yes, interconference games are a smaller sample size, but these figures are in line with what transpired last season.

If you watch enough ESPN boxing you may have year commentator and former trainer Teddy Atlas talk about a "silent bargain" between fighters to fall into clinches.

Charitably, you could try to make a case that the unfamiliarity aspect leads the two teams to a mean. But to that degree of difference over intraconference games?

No one's arguing that there's any kind of overt collusion going on, but instinctively, you have to believe that there is just slightly less intensity from NHL teams or passion over whether their opponent gets a single point when the opponent resides in the other conference.

Instead of looking at it a must-win, perhaps teams believe even a single is a bonus point because the opponent in front of them doesn't factor into their standings.

It's flawed thinking, but that doesn't mean it doesn't creep in from time to time.

Of the Canadian teams, Calgary fans are probably more apt to wonder about this in 2011-12.

The Flames have the second worst record in the NHL with respect to games that go beyond 60 minutes. 

Of the 12 OTL's Calgary has, five have come against Eastern clubs, a disproportionate rate given that the split is 64 intraconference games and 18 interconference contest.

Their overall record in interconference games is 4-7-5, with Ottawa and Philadelphia games particulary frustrating additions to the third column for the Flames' faithful.

The realignment plan that never was in December had many flaws, though it would have seen teams play 30 times against the other conference, up from 18.

Perhaps the strangest part of LeBrun's column was when an anonymous GM stated as if it was a bad thing, that under a 3-2-1 design a club in the final week of the season might pull the goalie in a tie game to get that three-point swing.

How could going for it be less exciting for the fans than the current standard of settling?  

 

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