Anyone can read a stat sheet.
Living in Toronto has taught me that much.
Likewise I have also learned that anyone can tell the time, but only few can fix a watch.
I always found it interesting that goals and assists were both worth one point on the stats sheet. Don’t get me wrong, it did me wonders when playing hockey. I could put up three points in a game on secondary assists alone. Though when analyzing a team’s success – especially as they venture further down the playoff road – a goal scored to tie the game or give the go-ahead holds more weight on the bench and in the dressing room than the final tally scored in a blowout.
Timing is everything.
A goal at the right time can awaken a snoozing crowd, ignite a timid bench and slow the heart of a frantic coach. Leaders are born out of those scenarios, ones that can continually be counted on not to grip their stick too tight or make mental lapses under pressure.
I am not sure whether clutch scoring is tied closer to the noun (releasing pressure in even the most severe circumstances) or the verb (grabbing on tight and refusing to release despite how hard you’re being shaken). I do however know how to identify it.
Matt Frattin’s two goal effort in game three of the AHL Western Conference Finals was clutch. The first was a go-ahead marker scored with 42 seconds remaining in the middle frame, after Oklahoma City scored two in a 1:19 span to tie it. The second came with 2:02 left in the third, this one holding up as the game winner.
Mike Zigomanis’ overtime winner in Abbotsford in game five to take the series, that was clutch. It was also the fourth post-regulation goal he had scored this season. Indicating strongly that those who step up in tough situations once, may very well be the ones that present themselves as key contributors if stuck in the same jam later.
If you were to run down the Marlies playoff stat sheet, Jerry D’Amigo leads the club with 11 points followed closely be a three-way tie for second as Frattin, Nazem Kadri and Phil Dupuis each have 10. Nicolas Deschamps sits fifth with 9 points.
If we wanted to dissect the club, see really what has made it tick; which on-ice leaders have pushed the team ahead through a game’s most stressful times, it would serve to our advantage to isolate only the points earned in the most critical of situations. When examining clutch points – goals scored to either tie a game or give your club a leg up – the names may not change all that much, but the ordering sure does.
This is what I like to call conditional scoring.
Of Frattin’s 10 points, he leads his team with seven scored in clutch situations. A score off his stick has once tied the game for the Marlies, and four times given the club the lead on the scoreboard. Tacking onto his five clutch goals, his two lone assists have both come on go-ahead goals, accounting for 70% of his overall production.
Frattin tops our list of captain clutch candidates.
Sneaking in under the radar, Deschamps falls in line next behind the sniping winger with five assists earned to tie or grant the lead, four of which coming in the latter situation. Adding his go-ahead goal from game two of the opening round, six of Deschamps 9 points (or 67%) have been earned when his team was most in need.
This fits perfectly with what linemate Dupuis once said of Deschamps, that he was a player eager to be on the ice in the most intense of situations. You better bet that the guys on the bench notice this, and appreciate it. Big time.
When mentioning heroics, we can’t leave out the efforts of D’Amigo, especially through the playoffs opening round. Four times the sophomore scored a clutch goal, and once he assisted on a go-ahead marker. D’Amigo’s five clutch points ties his with first-round linemate Dupuis, who twice scored go-ahead goals, twice assisted on go-ahead goals and once helped on a game tying tally.
Rounding out our top five list is Kadri, the talented forward having collected 10 points in the ten games leading up to Monday’s game three contest against Oklahoma City Barons. Unfortunately an awkward collision with the opponent sent the sophomore skating to the dressing room early in the first period preventing him from continuing his point-per-game pace.
Of Kadri’s three goals, one was scored to give the Marlies the lead and three of his 7 assists came in high-pressure situations. Four clutch points for Kadri, 40% of his scoresheet presence in the playoffs.
Take a gander at the full clutch scoring list:
Frattin – 7pts (5g, 2a)
Deschamps – 6pts (1g, 5a)
D’Amigo – 5pts (4g, 1a)
Dupuis – 5pts (2g, 3a)
Kadri – 4pts (1g, 3a)
Hamilton – 3pts (1g, 2a)
Holzer – 3pts (3a)
Scott – 2pts (2g)
Gardiner – 2pts (2a)
Fraser – 2pts (2a)
Zigomanis – 1pt (1g)
Mueller – 1pt (1g)
Colborne – 1pt (1a)
Ashton – 1pt (1a)
Mikus – 1pt (1a)
Gysbers – 1pt (1a)
Lashofff – 1pt (1a)
There ya go, a new set of stats to work with.
Toronto has always been praised for how those in the city truly understand the game of hockey. A passive fan is hard to find and opinions on the Leafs rebuild are plenty. We could walk into any local watering hole and almost immediately debate special teams or top-six/bottom-six. So then a smarter-than-average group of fans deserve smarter-than-average set of stats.
Anyone can read a box score.
But you’re not just anyone, are you?