The Connecticut Whale had a rough season. A young team, the Whale finished last in the standings for the second year in a row. At times, they looked outplayed. At times, they looked outworked. At times, they looked unlucky.
Luck is a part of hockey. Often times, struggling teams or players refer to bad puck luck, in which the puck refuses to go in the back of the net. A bounce the other way and the puck goes in, but instead it bounces off the post. Players can’t seem to buy a goal when cursed with bad puck luck.
Perhaps the epitome of bad puck luck, unfortunate circumstance, or whatever you want to call it was forward Kelly Babstock. Now, don’t get it twisted, Babstock had a solid year for the Whale. She tied for first in goals and second in overall points on the team and finished top 20 in the league with seven points.
However, looking at her stat line in previous seasons, her numbers took a significant drop. In the 2016-17 season, Babstock scored nineteen points (10G, 9A) — good for sixth in the league. In the 2015-16 season, Babstock scored 22 points (9G, 13A) — tied for third in the league.
It is true that Babstock had help her first two seasons. The Whale team was a bit stronger and had a few more veterans. With the talented Kelli Stack as her linemate, it was inevitable that Babstock had more scoring opportunities. Still, a twelve point drop cannot be completely attributed to a better team. There must be another factor.
The culprit? Bad. Puck. Luck.
Babstock had the speed and the moves and the confidence from all the seasons before. However, her finish — the one thing tied closest to puck luck — gone.
Look at the shootout gif. Babstock beats Buffalo Beauts goalie Amanda Leveille, and ... just loses her footing. Instead of the puck going in the net, Babstock slides headfirst past the goalie. Bad luck.
Perhaps the biggest sign of bad luck for Babstock was her shooting percentage. She dropped from 15.5 percent and 17.2 percent in her first two seasons to 5.6 percent. The average shooting percentage for those who scored this past season was over 13 percent (11.5 percent in 2015-16, 12.45 percent in 2016-17).
To put that in perspective, if Babstock had the average shooting percentage, she would have scored nine goals. Instead, she had to shoot more than twice as much than the other players for a goal. Her shooting percentage was eighth worst in the league.
Babstock’s bad luck permeated to the team level, too. The Whale struggled to score goals, with only 11 players lighting the lamp. Of her teammates that scored more than one goal, Babstock’s shooting percentage came in dead last.
Still, the hockey gods weren’t completely against Babstock. In the offseason, Babstock coaches Ontario South in the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships. This year, her team made it to the finals before falling just short.
So it doesn’t seem like Babstock is cursed by the hockey gods — just the recipient of some bad puck luck.
**Also, completely unrelated to hockey, her dog Buck made it in the lacrosse world.