Golf: NHL Playoffs Edition


Golf Time
I absolutely love playing golf. There are days – many, many days – all I want to do is golf.

Might be some Leaf fans that share my love. Some fans are forced into golf due to the lack of playoffs.

Ahh, the playoffs .. but a memory. What better way to understand or reacquaint with the postseason than by using an example too many Leafs fans know.


An explanation of the NHL playoffs explained in five strokes. It’s a par-5, 550 yds to the hole.

Shot 1/Game 1

The first shot on the par-5 is a driver, long shot off the tee. Golfers crave length and positioning setting up for a perfect second shot and chance at birdie, or par. It’s just getting the ball out there in to play and testing of the makeup of the hole.

Similar to an opening drive, Game 1 of a playoff series is a warm-up to eventual intensity levels. Two teams test each other pushing the limits, setting tones and sub-plots. Similar to the first shot off the tee, both teams are getting a feel for each other, putting the series into play and setting up the all important second game.

Shot 2/Game 2

Despite many different opinions, I feel the second shot on a par-4 or five, is the most important shot on a golf course. A bad drive can be recovered with a good second shot and getting back into a good position to par the hole. An initial good drive lines up a second shot for a birdie opportunity on a par-4, even an eagle on the par-5. Flub this second shot and it looks like a plus score on a hole. A bad drive along with a horrible second shot will most certainly guarantee bogey or worse (bogey=one-above par – like I have to explain that to Leafs fans).

Like a second shot, the second game carries just as much importance in a playoff series. A team down 1-0 that goes on to lose that crucial second game going down 2-0 have trailed 291 times and come back to win only 37 times, or 12.7%. Just like a golfer with a bad second shot, teams flubbing two straight are in trouble. Like a good second recovery shot a team down 1-0 resets the series in second game and winning the series becomes the focus, not getting even.

Shot 3/Game 3

A good second shot after a long drive on a par five sets up an eagle putt (I’ve never had an eagle). At worst it’s a short shot to get as close to the hole as possible for a birdie attempt. On a par-4 golfers should be putting on the third shot. This is the part for skill, setting up the kill shot. If golfers attack the hole on a birdie putt and succeed are generously rewarded. A just miss sets up a gimme putt.

A team up 2-0 is looking for the stranglehold to the series. A third consecutive loss is playoff death. Just like that third shot in golf it’s setting up a series to put away in four. A series tied 1-1 takes on a life of its own and resets at Game 3. A team down two games going into Game 3 inherits desperation into their game. It’s like shanking a drive, not recovering with a second shot requiring a third recovery shot before being able to get back on track. It’s all about one game and even one shift at a time when teams are down two games heading into Game 3. Any additional mistakes can be devastating.

Shot 4/Game 4

Golfers are putting away a par putt on their fourth shots or looking at birdie putt on the par-5. If a bogey golfer can keep holes to four shots maximum, they par the majority of the course birdie a few par-5’s and hopefully attack par-3’s in three shots. anytime there was a problem within the first two shots will be reflected in the final score here. Missing a par putt is an unnecessary stroke, but even the best of them miss stupid two-foot putts every once in a while.

A 3-0 series lead heading into Game 4 ends in a sweep or in a 3-1 deficit. There have been 229 teams down 3-1 in a series with only 20 (or 8.7%) battling back to win. It’s disadvantageous to be down at any point in a series but it’s a virtual death blow to go down 3-0. Even if a team does win Game 4 to stay alive, it’s a big hill to climb. Teams entering Game 4 with a 2-1 advantage are looking to establish an iron grip hold of the series, while when resets and it becomes a best of three series.

Shot 5/Game 5

This is a bogey on a par-4 and evens a par-5. A fifth shot on a par-4 indicates that one of the previous shots required some for of a makeup shot. It could also mean a missed par putt but the point remains, its one mistake, almost perfect. Missing out on one shot and adding a missed putt in the mix can quickly turn a par into a double bogey or worse.

The tied series establishes a best –of-three series; first to win two games moves on, and losers deal with fifth shots after flubbing putts. A 3-1 series deficit heading into Game 5 is like a missed putt that has to be drained. It’s critical not to make any more mistakes (like missing a cheesy two-foot putt) or the series is over.

Shot 6/Game 6

If you’re shooting six, it better be on a par-5 for a bogey. Other wise, it’s a double on a par-4 and a disappointing end to a hole.

Game 6 is do-or-die with a team down 3-2 and desperate. A loss will eliminate one, and put both clubs in to a position to eliminate either one.

Shot 7/Game 7

Seven shots? Really? You needed seven shots to get into the hole? Maybe you should just go fishing …

Game 7 is nothing more than a one-game showdown in which both teams made three crucial mistakes to end up in that situation. Maybe they lost a crucial overtime game, let a lead slip away and lost momentum. Anything can happen in the playoffs.

Enjoy the playoffs.

katshockey [at]

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Gus Katsaros is the McKeen’s Hockey Director of Analytics & Pro Scouting and has been writing at MLHS since 2009.