Getting There First

Ricky Bobby’s Dad gave him some motivational words before leaving his life forever until returning when Ricky needed him the most. Until he showed up to help his son regain the form that made him one of the greatest NASCAR drivers of all time, Ricky relied on these simple words to keep him going and dominate the tracks: “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”

Of course, that saying makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, and even Ricky’s dad would later tell him that. “You can be second, third, fourth… hell, you can even be fifth”, he’d go on to correct him.

The thing is, especially in sports, at the end of the day, if you “ain’t first”, then you pretty much are “last.” Sure, there’s second, third, fourth place, etc., but winning is the ultimate prize. So even though you might finish in second place or lose in the Stanley Cup Finals you almost feel like you’re in last place even if nobody else can say they came in second.

That’s the culture of sports. Win or bust. Nothing else really matters. During these Stanley Cup Finals the one thing that has come true so far in every single game that has been played up till now is that the team to score first has won the game. It’s a pretty simple stat. Getting the first goal has been a huge factor in this series, as has home ice, as neither Boston nor Vancouver have been able to win on the road.

Scoring the first goal has been a trend of sorts for both teams throughout the playoffs. Vancouver is 11-2, good for a .846 winning percentage, while Boston has been 10-1, which equals a .909 winning percentage, when scoring first.

Scoring first gives teams a psychological advantage as it leads the other team to force certain shots or passes in the hopes of tying the game up. And that could lead to mistakes or turnovers, which gives the leading team a chance to increase their lead. One big advantage both teams have when leading is the play of their goalies. Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo are fantastic goalies but if you give them a lead it’s very difficult to stop them. Adding to that is that both teams also have strong defensive units and forwards who can play defense.

Watch to see who scores first in Game 6 to see if the trend continues and if Vancouver ends up scoring first it’ll be interesting to see if Boston’s home-ice advantage will help them make a comeback.

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