The small things winners do 

March, 12, 2010

Through a minefield of overtimes and shootouts on Thursday night, I managed a respectable 6-4 mark on my weekly picks. I'll take it. Making these weekly selections, I've been reminded just how slim the difference between winning and losing is in this league. Last night, seven of the 10 games could have easily turned the other way.

The tight nature of the competition around the circuit got me looking at the stats. Here are five things (for Friday) that stood out to me.

1. Score first, baby! Teams that score first win approximately 65 percent of the time. That number has held true through the league's history. This season, a team's winning percentage when scoring first again has been a terrific indicator of where they find themselves in the standings. The first 13 teams in that category currently hold a postseason ticket. And, 16 of the top 17 have the same standing. The Phoenix Coyotes have been nearly perfect when scoring first, going 30-3-2. That's a ridiculously good .857 winning percentage.

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.