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Last Call: The Power of One

Sometimes I get fired up about something and stay up way too late writing about it. Colorado managing a single even-strength shot attempt in the 3rd against LA is one of those times.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

What you're looking at here is a screenshot of the NHL's play-by-play report from Sunday night's game in LA. With 5:20 remaining, play stopped to put Shore in the box, because his accidental light tap of Zadorov's stick was ruled interference. (Zadorov dropped the stick, making a slashing call conceivable, but this was a Peel-officiated affair after all.) They didn't score on the power play, so it would have ended with 3:20 remaining. According to the play by play report, Colorado then got a shot on goal, as Shore skated from the penalty box to join his team defending. That's the only shot attempt Colorado was able to muster tonight in the 3rd period 5v5.

I will repeat that.

Colorado was able to record one (1) shot attempt (SOG + misses + blocked) in well over 9 minutes of 5v5 play in the third period, all of which they trailed, and realistically, it was only a 5v5 attempt in the most "well, technically" sort of way.

Let me put this in some historical context for you guys, specifically those of you who aren't on Twitter after 1AM Eastern, which is when and where I've already ranted about this.

War on Ice is a truly excellent tool for power users. I'm able to first of all look at stats for every individual game since 2005 (although they warn against doing this past 2007, so I didn't). Moreover, I'm able to filter for just the third period, and for teams in trailing situations. The fantastic Jen Lute Costella, during her brief time with Puck Daddy, wrote this feature on score effects, and while the whole piece is worth reading the money explainer is here:

When a team has a lead of two or more goals in the first or second period or even just one goal in the third period, it tends to protect that lead. Often, the leading team will go into a defensive shell and be much less aggressive offensively. The leading team takes fewer risks in order to avoid giving up a goal. The team trailing in these situations tends to be much more aggressive offensively, taking more risks to score and get back in the game.

Teams generally take more shots when they're trailing and give up more when they're leading because they play more conservatively. Due to the "shell" defending teams fall into and the attacking teams' tendency to take more shots that might be shittier quality, we also see the leading team's SV% improve. (The trailing team's SV% dips because the chances they do give up are more likely to be on the rush.)

The point here is that in the third period, when you're trailing, that should be when you generate the most offense. Historically that's usually the case. But tonight, Colorado managed one shot attempt, and that with one defender still sprinting through the neutral zone out of the penalty box.

Once I have all my filters in place at War on Ice, I'm able to download the data and play with it in Excel. First I filtered out any game where a team played less time than the Avs did tonight in the 3rd-period-5v5-trailing situation, to keep the group fair. Then I sorted by shot attempt rate (CF60) and found something gross.

Tonight, the Colorado Avalanche put up the third-worst offensive performance in a 3rd-period-5v5-trailing situation since 2007, among teams who didn't spend less time in that situation than the Avs did tonight. If that one single shot attempt had been maybe half a second earlier? Would have been the worst ever.

You might be wondering, then, what that hilarious worst-performance-ever is. I'll tell you, but you aren't going to like it.

Boston Bruins at Colorado Avalanche, 3/21/14

Yep, the #1 and #3 worst offensive performances since 2007, in at least 9.5 minutes of what should be the situation you produce the MOST offense, belong to the Avalanche. Hey how deep does this go, really? What, for example, would the sixth-worst performance since OH COME ON THAT'S THE TEN SHOTS ON GOAL GAME FROM LAST APRIL.

Colorado Avalanche at LA Kings, 4/4/2015

This team, this Avalanche team, in the last about 18 months, has 3 of the 6 worst offensive outputs in high-offense situations that lasted at least as long as it did tonight, since the second Bush administration.

It's a roster with three top-3 picks in the forward corps, and a future HoFer in Jarome Iginla. It's a roster that's had some of the best centers 1-3 in the NHL, all at the same time. It's even got a few defensemen who belong in the NHL. This isn't a roster lacking for talent. And yet, since Patrick Roy took over behind the bench, only Buffalo, Edmonton, and New Jersey have had a lower 5v5 shot attempt for rate while trailing in the 3rd.

I don't have any explanations or speculations about why this might be ready for print. It's now 1:00 in the morning for me. These are just facts I uncovered tonight when I wondered, gee, how many teams have been in this situation, for this long, and been this inept. When I wondered exactly how important that 1 shot attempt, that technically came 1 second into 5v5 action, really was.