Defining 'clutch' play: Does it exist?

So, Eric T. wrote this comment in yesterday's Fly By. It should be much more than a comment. It should be a story. It's now a story. You're welcome, Eric. - Travis

I went through every goal in the league in the last two years and marked off how many met BSHer MJDII's definition of clutch: scored in OT or the last 10 minutes of regulation, to tie the game or give their team the lead. The results:

  • 7.1% of all goals are "clutch". So you might expect a 30-goal scorer to have 2 clutch goals per year, on average.
  • Carter had one clutch goal in 2010-11, 2.8% of his total. He had no clutch goals in '09-10, 0% of his total.
  • Andreas Nodl elevated his game the most in the clutch in '10-11, with 3 of his 11 goals (27.3%) coming in the clutch.
  • Danny Briere had the most clutch goals in '10-11, with 4. However, he padded his stats with so many unclutch goals that he was just a bit above the league average in clutch percentage.
  • Scott Hartnell was the least clutch player in '10-11. He had the talent to score 24 garbage goals, but never had any when it counted.

Before you read too much into any of this, let's look at '09-10, too:

  • The year before being the least clutch player on the team, Scott Hartnell was the most clutch, leading the team in both total clutch goals (3) and clutch goal percentage (21.4%). And yet '09-10 was considered a bad year for him.
  • The year before leading the team in clutch goals, Danny Briere had just one in 28 tries (3.6%). For the two-year total, the team's super-clutch playoff performer lands right at league average.
  • Just like Carter, Giroux had one clutch goal in '10-11 and zero in '09-10.

And around the league:

  • Sidney Crosby is another big choker, with only 3.3% of his goals coming in the clutch.
  • Patrick Kane is an even bigger choker, with only 1.6% of his goals coming in the clutch.
  • The Caps are full of clutch performers. Ovechkin (6.9%) and Backstrom (7.3%) are right near the league average, while Semin (20% in '10-11) and Laich (17.1%) are way above average. What a clutch team.

And of course, this wouldn't be complete without a chart:

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