How unusual was the ending of Monday's Game 6?

June 26, 2013

As a follow up to yesterday’s post on the latest Cup-winning goals in history, today I’m going to look at little more at the craziness of the end of Monday’s game. Earlier today I was thinking about how often it is that a team comes from behind to tie and win the game at the end of regulation, like the Blackhawks did a couple nights ago. My inclination was that it can’t possibly be a common thing. So with my six seasons worth of regular season play-by-play data I explored the question. Here’s what I found:

The Hawk’s game tying goal Monday came with 1:16 remaining in the 3rd. For the purposes of this post, I (arbitrarily) decided to look at what happens in the last 90 seconds of regulation. Out of the 6851 regular season games in my dataset since the 2007-2008 regular season (which is missing a handful of games because of data issues on the NHL’s website), 3896 were either tied or within 1 goal in the last 90 seconds of regulation. Out of these 3896 games, 1603 were tied at some point during the last 90 seconds.

Additionally, 1873 of all the games (27.3%) featured a goal scored in the final 90 seconds of the third. About 79% of the goals in these games didn’t impact the final outcome of the game in any way, either because they were empty netters or they were garbage goals let in by a team ahead by more than one goal. However, about one in five of these games had a goal that did impact how the game ended, either by tying the score or putting one team ahead.

Since 2007-2008, there have been 395 games with significant goals in the last 90 seconds. 283 regular season games (4.13%) that had a game tying goal that game in the final 90 seconds of regulation. And in those same periods, there have been 115 games (1.68%) that had a game winning goal after 18:30 of the third.

But how often do we see a game tying and a game winning goal at the end of the third period, as we did on Monday? The answer is not very much.

It’s only happened three times in almost 7000 regular season games. The first happened on February 5, 2010, when Travis Zajac of the Devils tied the score against the Maple Leafs with 44 seconds left, and Jay Pandolfo won it for New Jersey 25 seconds later.

The second one of these crazy games occurred on February 22, 2011. With the Senators down 3 to 2 to the Blue Jackets, Jason Spezza tied the score at 19:24 of the third. Milan Michalek eventually won it with 5 seconds left in regulation.

The third time happened on February 24th of this year, when Jerome Iginla of the Flames tied the score against the Coyotes with 1:23 remaining. The GWG was put in the net by Curtis Glencross 23 seconds later.

Unlike Monday’s game in Boston, all three of these improbable wins came by the home team. They also all (obviously) came in regular season situations that were substantially less pressure-filled than the circumstance facing Chicago and Boston. All of this just goes to highlight the fact that it’s pretty unlikely that we’ll see another end to a Finals game similar to what we witnessed this week.